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SWEETIE YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT (2021) Review

Neil reviews director Ernar Nurgaliyev’s SWEETIE YOU WON’T BELIEVE IT, screening at the Fantasia Festival 2021.

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Sweetie You Won't Believe It

Sweetie You Won’t Believe It screens as part of the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. For ticket and further into check out the Fantasia website.

Synopsis

Three bona fide losers escape from their drama-filled lives to go on their first fishing trip together, in a van filled with sex dolls and high optimism. While peacefully fishing, they witness inept gangsters accidentally blowing someone’s head off. While hotly pursued by the mobsters, a one-eyed man, highly skilled with knives and his fists, watches in stoic amusement in the shadows, and begins to pick both parties off one by one. The situation quickly escalates to complicated status, as it’s mating season for a “friendly” lady who may be related to the killer, and who has found a candidate among the hunted bunch. With nobody to rescue them, what twisted fates and bodily injury will greet our heroes and villains?

Review

What do you get when you mix together the comedy of The Hangover with the terror of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? You get director Ernar Nurgaliyev’s Sweetie You Won’t Believe It. A heady mix of masculine comedy set against a backdrop of oddball, chaotic horror.

Nurgaliyev, along with writing partners Zhandos Aibassov and Daniyar Soltanbayev, has crafted a story which is clever at being dumb. Sweetie‘s narrative is wonderfully constructed to navigate from punchline to punchline, elevated by moments of pure horror. The outlandish comedy sits at odds with the quiet countryside setting yet the two work together in perfect harmony.

When Dastan (Daniar Alshinov) leaves behind his pregnant wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva) to go on a fishing trip he unwillingly steps in to a hyperrealist world. Dastan and his friends meet with a group of equally quirky gangsters including Kooka. As they idle down the river on their fishing boat, the men watch as Kooka and crew shoot someone in the face. This callous murder sets off a chain reaction of events which are both hilarious and sickening.

It might sound straightforward so far, but throw in the film’s silent killer and things really start to escalate. Nurgaliyev balances guttural horror with comedy which, at times, verges on slapstick. A well-timed fart joke might be instantly followed up by a lethal amputation. Sometimes the two might even share the screen. But it’s this unpredictability which makes Sweetie so original.

Underneath all of the humour and horror is something quite surprising. Sweetie actually succeeds in stripping away the toxic-masculinity of its characters, allowing them to share some sweet moments. Where Zhanna is the archetypical nagging wife, Dastan and his friends break the mould and provide sweet relief from the madness.

Clocking in at only 85mins, Nurgaliyev’s script is razor sharp and water tight. There’s little time to linger int he film’s quieter moments but Sweetie is all the more successful for it.

Verdict

Sweetie You Won’t Believe It mixes odd-ball comedy with chaotic horror and the results are something entirely compelling.


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