Sweetie ★★★½

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Jane Campion

With Two Friends being made for Australian television Sweetie is technically Campion's film debut. It's a major step forward in technique and production value but with knowledge of what Campion is capable of it still feels like an artist figuring things out. It's the type of dysfunctional family drama that you can find anywhere but with a specificity to their social class and environment that sets it apart. The story revolves primarily around the re-entry of Sweetie, the disruptive and chaotic sister of our protagonist, into the family's lives. The film is a series of cycles where they take Sweetie in and forgive her, she pushes them to breaking point, and they cave just when it's time to kick her out. The Sweetie character is too broad but thankfully the film is not nearly as interested in digging into her character as it is into the way everyone around her responds. Most characters are painted in a harsh light but are given a compelling excuse for their behavior at all times in Sweetie's equally awful actions. The result is a film built on these complex push-pull character dynamics that respects the audience enough to leave out the likeable in favor of the human.

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