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Australian director Jane Campion's Sweetie starts out as a cock-eyed oddball comedy, but when the title character shows up at her sister's house, it becomes a cock-eyed oddball drama about living with a mentally ill member of the family. Not that Kay gets a clean bill of mental health, but her quirks and progressively distant relationship with her boyfriend are eventually informed by Sweetie and their parents (who eventually enter the story). Her ill ease around trees is especially relevant through the metaphor of putting down roots and family trees. She is the dysfunctional fruit of a dysfunctional tree. In Sweetie, we find a grown child prey to wild mood swings, treated by way of revertigo by her father (who lets her get away with everything) and her sister (who shouts at her like one would a disobedient pet, and indeed, Sweetie takes on the traits of an animal when she's feeling anxious and angry). There's an actual child in the movie, and we can actively see some kind of family trauma transference going on as he is witness to the story. Campion manages to infuse her film with both ugliness and forgiveness, which has a beauty of its own. And visually, people are always in the wrong place in the frame, or we're too close, or we're at an odd angle, and that perfectly represents this family dynamic.
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In 5 official lists
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This movie ranks #90 in Scott Hocking's 100 Greatest Films of Australian Cinema
This movie ranks #170 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films: 1001-2000
This movie ranks #378 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #851 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #852 in The New York Times's Book of Movies