Directed by Jub Clerc
Adelaide Film Festival
Murra (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) is a strong, defiant and troubled young lady who is struggling with finding stability in her unstable family home. Following an argument with her mother, Murra’s police officer Uncle, Ian (Mark Coles Smith), intervenes and offers Murra a circuit breaker, an attempt to divert her course with a bus excursion to the outback to view that part of the world through the lens of an old school film camera.
Enter the other ‘at risk teens’ whose parents have also pinned their hopes and dreams of reform on this magical mystery bus tour. This film has been likened to John Hughes’ classic coming of age film The Breakfast Club and this initial meeting of the troubled teens was the set up for that. Murra is joined by Elvis “the kind-hearted one” (Pedrea Jackson), Kylie “the boy-obsessed one” (Mikayla Levy) and Sean “the out of place one” (Andrew Wallace).
As they depart from the township, the depiction of industrialised Western Australia provides a harsh reminder of the ever present mining industry and as they enter the untouched country, one does feel some sorrow for how this once beautiful and sacred land has forever been scarred by the economic reality of modern day living.
They then reach the outback and carry their traumas with them and, as kids of that age do, act up while on tour. This follows a typical trajectory for this type of storyline: they get in trouble, fight, share, bond and become friends all while starting to appreciate the error of their ways, ultimately embracing the opportunity to change. While there is a nod to the idea of connection to Country, the theme of rediscovering respect for nature and the land, and in turn for yourself, was a little undernourished and under-explored.
There are some sincerely touching moments, yet I felt the characters were not quite developed deeply enough for the story to be truly transformative. Having said this, the performance of Barnes-Cowan showed genuine promise and I hope to see her in future roles that will allow her to broaden her acting horizons.
Sweet As is a solid start from debut writer/director Jub Clerc and was celebrated at the Melbourne Film Festival, where it received the inaugural Innovation award.