Film recommendation: Sweetheart (15)

Sweetheart is a refreshing, very British, take on the coming-of-age story as AJ navigates troubled family dynamics, first love and the difficulties of defining herself during an uncomfortable family holiday.

For socially awkward, environmentally conscious teenager AJ (Nell Barlow), planning a gap year trip to knit jumpers for elephants is much more appealing than spending a week with her family at a British seaside holiday park. Yet, she finds herself in a caravan on the Dorset coast with her mum Tina (Jo Hartley, This Is England, Eddie the Eagle, After Life), little sister Dayna, pregnant older sister Lucy and Lucy’s boyfriend Steve (Samuel Anderson, Danny from Doctor Who). AJ, who is at that point of trying to figure out exactly who she is, expects this to be ‘a week of hell’ – her mum accepts her sexuality but keeps making crass, though well-meaning, and using her childhood name rather than the new moniker AJ.

But when AJ meets the park lifeguard Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), she is instantly infatuated. What is lovely is that, although this romance drives the story, it is by no means all of the story. As much as anything, Isla’s interest in her gives AJ the confidence to embrace new friendships, but also to accept the love of her own family.

Winner of the audience award at the Glasgow Film Festival, Marley Morrison’s debut captures the ups and downs of the quintessential British family holiday and the highs and lows of being a queer teen in today’s world.

Catch Sweetheart in UK cinemas now.

And while you are here – checkout AJ’s film club selections, all well worth watching.

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