Directed by Jub Clerk, Sweet As is a film that lives up to its title. The story of an Indigenous teen who discovers photography on a camping trip for at-risk youth, it’s uplifting without being cloying. Nor does it fall into the trap of popular fare like Dangerous Minds or Finding Forrester – movies that suggest all troubled youth need are middle-class white role models. Instead, this Sweet As patiently explores how teens need – and deserve – a lot of things, like a loving family, a community of peers, and a creative outlet.
When we meet Murra (Shantae Barnes-Cowan), she’s shoplifting Ramen noodles to sustain herself. Murra has Grace (Ngaire Pigram), a mother who loves her, but her mother also struggles with serious alcohol use disorder. When she falls off the wagon, Grace throws parties so wild, her adolescent daughter shoves the armoire in front of her bedroom door to prevent pervy older men from entering.
When Murra’s cop uncle secures his niece a place on the Youth Trip through Western Australia, she’s not exactly game. But she doesn’t have many options. Somewhat predictably, Murra goes from scoffing at the trip’s premise to finding her voice through photography in a matter of hours. However, Barnes-Cowan’s performance as a guarded but secretly hopeful teen is so charismatic, it’s not hard to overlook a somewhat rushed character arc.
Ultimately, Sweet As is a hopeful, winning film. It’s a story that reminds us of the pitfalls – and the seemingly limitless potential – of adolescence.
- Rated: NR
- Genre: Drama, Teen Drama
- Release Date: 9/10/2022
- Directed by: Jub Clerc
- Starring: Arenamedia, Carlos Sanson Jr., Liz Kearney, Mark Coles Smith, Ngaire Pigram, NR, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Steve Rodgers
- Produced by: Liz Kearney
- Written by: Jub Clerc, Steve Rodgers
- Studio: Arenamedia
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