Skip to content
Home » ‘Sweetheart’ Director Discusses Her Lesbian Coming-of-Age Film ‘Sweetheart,’ Due on DVD and Digital May 16

‘Sweetheart’ Director Discusses Her Lesbian Coming-of-Age Film ‘Sweetheart,’ Due on DVD and Digital May 16


Stephanie Prange

Director Marley Morrison’s feature debut Sweetheart is an uplifting lesbian coming-of-age romance, something that was a rarity she says when she was growing up.

The film — due on DVD and digital May 16 from Film Movement — follows socially awkward lesbian teenager A.J. (Nell Barlow), who begrudgingly joins her British family on a seaside vacation. She finds herself constantly at odds with her painfully “normal” mother and older sister, neither of whom can understand why she doesn’t smile more or “dress like a girl.” Her anticipated “week of hell” takes an unexpected turn when Isla (Ella-Rae Smith), a free-spirited and sun-loving lifeguard, catches her eye.

The film’s accolades include British Independent Film Awards for Breakthrough Performance (Nell Barlow) and Breakthrough Producer (Michelle Antoniades), as well as nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Jo Hartley), Best Debut Screenwriter (Marley Morrison), and the Douglas Hickox Award (Marley Morrison); Frameline SF Int’l LGBTYQ FF nomination for Outstanding First Feature Award; Glasgow Film Festival winner of the Audience Award and Best First Feature; Inside Out Toronto LGBT FF winner of the International Juried Award (Marley Morrison, Hazey Jane Films); L.A. Outfest award for Outstanding Performance in an Int’l Narrative (Nell Barlow); London Critics Circle Film Awards nomination for Breakthrough British Filmmaker of the Year. 

Director Marley Morrison

Media Play News asked Morrison about the themes and aims of her feature film debut.   

MPN: What is the genesis of your feature film debut?

Morrison: I wanted to make an uplifting film about what happens after a young lesbian has “come out,” highlighting the nuances and painfully honest and awkward inter-family relations that a young gay female has to navigate whilst going through life. I also wanted to make something that the young gay community could relate to and specifically for young gender nonconforming lesbians to see themselves reflected on screen in a film that is uplifting.

MPN: This is also Nell Barlow’s feature film debut. How was she cast? What surprised or impressed you about her performance?

Morrison: Nell was cast through our casting director Carolyn McLeod, who was amazing in sourcing some great actors for us. There was something about Nell that was authentic, raw, engaging — and also hilarious. Her comedic timing is great, and she embodied A.J.’s sense of awkward masculine energy in such a naturalistic way, but also a vulnerable way. I think I saw a lot of my younger self in her. Nell is an incredible young actor and I’m so proud of her for trusting me and dedicating herself so honestly to this role.

MPN: How does the film contribute to bringing visibility to the lesbian perspective?

Morrison: Growing up, I watched a lot of films featuring LGBT+ people suffering or dealing with trauma. I always liked the idea that people could see a story with a lesbian character that is uplifting and joyful. To see yourself reflected on screen is intrinsic to owning your sense of self. To see a coming-of-age romance centered around two young women is something I never saw growing up and would have helped me understand that being gay isn’t all trauma and sometimes you can have a happy ending. Just by this film existing in the world it contributes to lesbian visibility as for so long we have been told our stories are not important.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

MPN: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

Morrison: I hope it brings back some old nostalgic memories of first loves and summer holidays. I hope it reminds them of the community and joy that can be found in being working class. Mostly, I hope people feel uplifted after seeing it, and it helps bridge those gaps in family communications and helps us understand each other better. I hope it makes young lesbians feel seen and heard, and I hope it helps people understand that everyone is living their own lives and rather than fight against the world we should work to be part of it.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!