The Sweet East
“They all come from different planets but they are speaking the same language?” In post-coital conversation, Lillian (Talia Ryder) delivers a withering assessment on a film, which turns out to be an apt forerunner of The Sweet East’s take on its study of contemporary America.
During an excursion to Washington DC, the pizzeria bar Lillian and her friends hang out at, the establishment is stormed by a conspiracy theorist with a gun. The young woman manages to flee, together with another patron, whom she promptly joins in his anarcho-punk activism, before switching sides at a white supremacist rally and carrying on with closet Nazi Lawrence (Simon Rex).
Impassively, the protagonist passes through different states of the country’s east coast, encountering different versions of mania, all operating under fervent belief systems, while she remains an apathetic leaf in the wind. If it weren’t for Ryder’s endless charm, this lack of character would not be as alluring to watch as it is. From the moment we see her belting out a song in the bathroom stall, only under the pretext of singing for herself (through the mirror, her eyes cling to the camera), the audience is under her spell and willing to follow blindly wherever her strange adventures may take her.
The role of the “likeable asshole” becomes Simon Rex exceedingly well, proving that his ardent and Cannes-worthy performance in Red Rocket (which premiered at the 2021 festival) wasn’t a one-off. Nevertheless the fondness bestowed upon his character also leaves a bitter aftertaste, considering encounters of empathy in The Sweet East are few and far between, and those characters committing less grievous offences are less sympathetically portrayed.
Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi makes a memorable but all too brief appearance as a heartthrob actor, whose love life gossip adorns the covers of inflight magazines, and who finally appears to rouse genuine interest from Lilliane.
In his directorial debut, cinematographer Sean Price Williams (also DOP on this project) knows how to keep his audience entertained and visually stimulated, but the cluttered narrative can just as easily make you miss the forest for the trees.
The Sweet East does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch a clip from The Sweet East here: