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Sweet Sue

Futile and inept young dancer and his new, exciting stepmother develop an intense relationship full of surprises - British cringe comedy with elements of kitchen sink is in cinemas and also on VoD on Friday, December 22nd

The story takes place in a sleepy coastal town somewhere in England. Bubbly and cheerful Sue (Maggie O’Neill) runs a little gift shop, and helps to organise children’s parties. Her mother suffers from dementia, has brother has tragically passed away, and she has little interest in bonding with her sister. So she literally sets off on a motorbike with a heavily-bearded club bouncer called Ronald (Tony Pitts), whom she casually met at the local watering hole. That’s the last time we see her family. The middle-aged and beautiful woman is seeking some new thrills. She’s in for a bumpy ride!

Ron is a timid man of few words, barely able to express his feelings towards his newfound hubby. But Sue is satisfied, genuinely enjoying his company, while also spurring him into becoming a little more adventurous, or at least more expressive. Ron has a son in his early 20s, the loud and camp Anthony (Harry Trevaldwyn), who is elated at the idea of having a stepmother. They immediately bond, dining and laughing together, or going out on shopping trips. An unlikely alliance. One day, the duo drag Ron on a journey to the clothes store in order to buy him some colourful clothes, but the stern man is entirely unimpressed. He has no interest in replacing his dark biker attire. That’s when the differences between father and son are fully exposed. A garrulous and colourful gay man with an interest in fashion, dance and social media has very little to share with a quiet and introspective biker. There’s a simmering sense of homophobia, however Ron never makes any discriminatory remarks. Sue becomes the connecting piece between the two males.

Anthony looks a little like a young David Bowie, or perhaps Barry Manilow, minus their voice, their charms and their charisma. He perceives himself as some sort of social media influencer, yet there is little evidence that he has a sizeable audience. He regularly shares confessional posts. One of these publications will cause his family irreparable damage. He receives solace, affection and – perhaps most importantly – financial support from a sugardaddy called Terry, a man literally three times his age (and much older than his father). He is the member of a local dance act called Electric Destiny. One day, he shows his awkward moves to Sue at home, convinced that she’ll be impressed by his swagger. Her reaction shocks and disappoints him. This is when their intense and short-lived friendship begins to change. Perhaps Sue isn’t as sweet as Anthony anticipated. Will the sudden friends lock horns? Anthony’s real mother gets involved, complicating things further. Could this small and impromptu family of three disintegrate just as quickly as it was formed?

Leo Leigh’s sophomore feature provides a snapshot of working-class Britain (the son of Mike Leigh and Alison Steadman directed his debut Loony in the Woods nearly two decades ago, in 2006). Dysfunctional and precarious nuclear families fight to retain their dignity and keep their heads above the water. These are people with few opportunities and a lot of dreams. Dreams of stardom even. Who can blame Anthony for wanting to make it big on stage or perhaps even on television, and for wanting to create a social media following?

Ultimately, this is an entirely palpable and relatable tale of broken homes and impromptu alliances. It is not your laugh-out-loud kind of comedy, but instead one with subtle and effective comments on gender, class and sexuality. A film that genuinely understands the fears and frustrations of everyday people in a small town that offers them few venting outlets. The performances are excellent, (particularly O’Neill and Trevaldwyn). The acting is mostly naturalistic, much in the vein of the films directed by Leo’s father. No character is entirely good or evil. They are just normal people seeking an elusive redemption. There are quite a few of those living down your street. Or perhaps even inside your own home.

The world premiere of Sweet Sue took place on June 27th at the 40th Munich Film Festival, as part of the CineVision Competition. DMovies is live at the event unearthing the dirtiest film gems exclusively for you. In cinemas and also on VoD (Curzon Home Cinema) on Friday, December 22nd:

By Victor Fraga - 27-06-2023

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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