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Australia 1989
Directed by
Jane Campion
97 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Sweetie was New Zealand-born Campion's first feature film after graduating from the Australian Television and Film School and produced while she was still an undergraduate at it. One of the first of a long tradition of 'quirky' Australian films with the general subject of the banal tragi-comedy of ordinary Australian suburban life, it has a darker tone than later, more commercially successful descendants like Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Muriel's Wedding (1994).

Genevieve Lemon plays Sweetie, the fat, childish, emotionally-demanding sister to shrinking violet Kay (Karen Colston). The latter is struggling with her depressed libido when Sweetie invades her life bringing in her wake their father (Jon Darling) who himself is depressed because their mother (Dorothy Barry) has just left him. Based on an original idea by Campion who co-scripted with Gerard Lee, the film is heavily steeped in the local vernacular with conscientiously faithful décor and a off-beat style that makes it in many ways a pioneer to the now very popular dysfunctional family sub-genre of black comedy.

FYI: Cinematographer Sally Bongers was the first woman cinematographer to work on an Australian 35mm film although the only other feature she lensed was Resistance (1992), a big budget Mad Max-style film directed by Hugh Keays-Byrne that was never released.




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