The Sweet East

It feels like it’s been a while since there’s been a good coming-of-age movie, so if you like films like Booksmart and Lady Bird, you’ll want to check out The Sweet East, which is on a limited release in UK cinemas this month and will be available to stream later this year.

Taking a decidedly satirical bent, it follows Lillian (Talia Ryder), a student in South Carolina whose life is changed as she takes a bizarre road trip across the east of America, meeting various odd individuals and discovering weird cultures. The surrealist nature definitely makes it worth a watch, powered by its performances and, at times, documentary-like style.

Safdie Brothers collaborator Sean Price Williams directs the film, and it’s definitely not your standard story of “growing up and becoming an adult”. Lillian, played by West Side Story and Dumb Money star Talia Ryder, is a high school student taking a school trip to the capital Washington D.C. It’s there that she’s separated from everyone else when a restaurant is attacked by a gun wielding assailant who apparently thinks a child abuse scandal is being covered up there (referencing an infamous conspiracy theory in the US).

Lillian however is saved from harm by an activist named Caleb (played by Alex Rider’s Earl Cave) and she decides to tag along with his group, happy to take herself to new experiences. If you’ve ever seen Louis Theroux’s documentaries exploring the odd subcultures and lesser-seen parts of America, you’ll get some idea of a few of the figures that inhabit The Sweet East’s runtime: conspiracy theorists, Nazis, pretentious film-makers.

The film itself is certainly a ride, one where you’re not always sure where things will end up next, and, like the best films about wandering across a country, you’re along for the ride with our protagonist. There’s a sort-of meta plot where Lillian gets roped into an indie film role, spearheaded by the aforementioned film-maker Molly, played by The Bear breakout star Ayo Edebiri, as she is cast to act alongside Ian (Priscilla and Saltburn’s Jacob Elordi). Of course, Lillian is still unaccounted for after vanishing in D.C- but will going back home to a normal life appeal to her? If you want a film that’ll suck you in and weird you out more than a couple of times, then The Sweet East is for you. Be quick as it’s only on a limited release here in Britain (the BFI is one place to book), but will be coming to Amazon Prime and Apple TV later this year, so be sure to pop it on your watch list.

Watch the trailer:

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