Sweet Thing – Blu-Ray Review

Sweet Thing is the first film from Alexandre Rockwell to have any real UK distribution since his segment in Four Rooms. His two previous features, Pete Smalls Is Dead and 13 Moons, never got UK releases, although on a deep dive searching for free streamers in the UK you can find the most recent of the two, Pete Small Is Dead, in on Watch4, which is a Germany-based free ad-supported streamer that entered the UK market sometime in the past 12 months. That film had German distribution, which may explain this surprise inclusion. Rockwell remains best known for his Sundance hit In the Soup—that was where he met Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino, hence his inclusion in the Four Rooms project. Rockwell is on record saying that he and Tarantino had a falling out over a script he was set to direct at Miramax, but they have rekindled their friendship in recent years.

Rockwell had made a mini-feature, Little Feet starring his kids Lana and Nico, and in Sweet Thing, they star yet again. It’s a very simple, ultra-low budget indie about two siblings who, in an act of youthful defiance, embark on their own adventure with a local friend. Their father is played by Will Patton as an alcoholic loser who he isn’t a bad guy, but whose demons have overtaken his love for his kids. The film has some shades of The Night of the Hunter, especially the almost fairytale-like adventure the kids end up on, and there is a little crime movie angle that recalls Badlands, no doubt two favourites of Rockwell.

The film is shot in black and white Kodak Super 16, which gives it a feel of being from almost a different era—and to some extent it is, it feels very much like some rough and tumble improvised indie from the ’90s, and that’s cool. It’s nice to see that poetic low-budget indie films about kids on the run can still get made. It did help that Rockwell self-funded it and used his students at NYU Tisch (he is a professor there) as the crew, though! It has some wonderful use of colour in the few sequences where colour is used. The kids are really wonderful, and Will Patton is always pretty reliable, he was also great in the recent Minari.

It’s nice to have Rockwell back and getting his films seen. Sweet Thing is not perfect by any means, but the passion that went into the project is on full show, and it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the kids’ journey. And the kids are very good—who said nepotism never works? Rockwell also completely lucked out with the music, using the title song from Van Morrison’s enormously overrated Astral Weeks album (it’s actually the best song on the album by miles). Rockwell got through to Morrison’s people, and he agreed to 1/10th the original price for licensing the song. The fact that he agreed to the deal almost redeems him for his recent Covid-denial nonsense. Brian Eno and Sigur Rós agreed to the same deal, as did Billie Holiday’s estate (Lana’s character is named after Holiday).

The release from Eureka doesn’t have any extras on the disc—it would’ve been great to get Little Feet as an extra, though! I assume Rockwell owns the film (it was funded via a Kickstarter campaign), so it should’ve been easy to navigate a deal. The only extra is in the first print run, and it’s a booklet from Jason Wood, who is the artistic director at Manchester’s HOME art, theatre and film centre. 

★★★½

Ian Schultz

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