After a boat trip gone wrong, Jennifer (Kiersey Clemons) finds herself stranded on an island. She is alone, with no way to contact the outside world. The longer she waits for help, the closer something gets. Something other than Jennifer lives on the island, and it’s only a matter of time before it comes for her.
From the jump, it’s an interesting story. What’s more horrifying than being the sole survivor of a disaster? The idea of waking up, alone on a beach and surrounded by the bloated bodies of your dead friends is scary. Realizing that some unknown apex predator is stalking you at night? Horrifying.
What makes Sweetheart worth a couple of rewatches, however, is all the things that we don’t see or hear. It’s a film filled with characters without a backstory. There’s always something lurking under the surface.
Our Unknowable Protagonist
From the first few minutes, Jennifer shows her outstanding resourcefulness by fetching water for a dying friend. Instead of floundering around like many of us with no survival skills would, she takes a coconut and cracks it open with a rock. She spears fish and cooks them over a fire. She creates shelter from fronds. When things start hitting the fan, she strings up a makeshift hammock high in the trees. Sweetheart doesn’t ever frame her as a weak woman. In fact, I found myself wondering how she could stay so calm throughout the ordeal. Sweetheart implies that there’s much more to Jennifer than meets the eye.
A week into her ordeal, Jennifer’s friend, Mia and Jennifer’s boyfriend Lucas, wash up in a raft. Jen attempts to warn them of their imminent doom at the hands of a monster. But, the duo would rather take their chances on the island instead of being stuck out at sea once more. Jennifer devises a plan; she tries to steal the boat, only to get the tar knocked out of her.
She reawakens at night. Lucas confronts her about the trip, claiming that she “always has a black cloud” hanging over her head. He argues that storm clouds follow Jen wherever she goes. Jennifer is never happy. While on the boat, before the crash, Lucas argues that everyone was having a good time except for her. He confirms he knew that Jen was going to leave him by the end of the trip.
The implication here could very well be that Jennifer has some undisclosed illness. Something that causes her distress, and makes her brooding and moody. Depression? Jennifer battling her inner demons explains the “black cloud” that Lucas describes. Being stranded isn’t ideal, I’m aware, but Jennifer always has a hardened look in her eye. As if something else in her life prepared her for survival.
Underneath it all, perhaps Jennifer’s mood comes from an upbringing that we were never privy to. She has a certain knowledge of crafting, hunting, and scavenging that a lot of us don’t. She can cook and debone fish. She’s adept at rationing. Why would someone, especially a young, well-off looking woman, be on this level of self-sufficiency?
At some point, it’s likely that she lived in some sort of environment where she had to learn to survive.
Her boyfriend also says “everything you have, you got from me”. Hypothetically: Jennifer escapes an unhealthy living environment. She meets Lucas, and they begin living together. Lucas provides her with housing, food, care, and introduces her to his friend group. All the while, Jennifer saves up enough money to live on her own. Sweetheart shows us that Jen is resourceful. Likely, she planned on splitting with Lucas before the boat wreck, as he’s served his purpose.
There’s also a strange, offhand comment by Mia, who calls Jennifer out for lying about some undisclosed thing. Jennifer begs Mia to believe her about the monster. Mia says: “Just like [I’m supposed to believe you about] that time you said you got mugged, right?” That could mean anything. Was Jennifer using that excuse to weasel her way out of a trip? To get Mia to give her some money, so she could save it and move out? To be more relatable?
Either way, the line suggests that Jennifer (at least in Mia’s eyes) cannot fully be trusted.
They Definitely Ate Zack
In a ScreenRant article, there’s a new theory suggesting that before they washed up on the island, Mia and Lucas ate their friend Zack. It’s interesting and puts a new light on why they are so adamant about not getting on the raft.
Before the two show up, Jennifer finds Zack’s body bisected. There are gashes on his face, like something—or someone—stabbed him.
From what little we know of the monster, we see it devour it’s prey completely. And if it doesn’t, it drags the food into its lair, a hole in the ocean.
When Jennifer opens Lucas’ pocket knife, she spots small, red stains on the blade.
Lucas and Jen head back to sea and off the island after the monster devours Mia. On the boat, Jennifer looks down to see blood stains covering the bottom of the raft.
When Jennifer tries to explain the monster, she argues that it pulled Zack’s corpse into the water. At the mention of Zack, Lucas darts his eyes to Mia. Mia looks away.
Mia recounts her time on the raft, cryptically. She is careful never to give away too much detail. Jennifer argues that she’d rather die out at sea, and Mia, with a haunted, far off look in her eyes, says “You don’t know what it’s like out there [on the ocean]”. Mia looks like she would rather die than get back on the boat.
This is all speculation. What is undeniable, is that something occurred on the raft. Perhaps a spat over rations that devolved into a murder? Or a desperate situation with no food, and no water? Either way, Mia and Lucas’ involvement with Zack’s death is undeniable.
In the timeline of “Sweetheart,” Jennifer is only on the island for about a week. Likely, Mia and Lucas were on the boat for the same amount of time. It seems unfathomable that they would cannibalize one of their own after only seven days.
But, in a real-life scenario of cannibalism after a disaster, it took survivors of a plane crash nine days. Seven days out on a boat, no food and no drinkable water could very well make monsters of us all.
And the Movie Itself:
Sweetheart isn’t the sort-of in-your-face horror that a lot of us know nowadays. Rather, it builds on the innate horror of Jennifer’s situation, on the horror of not knowing. Of not knowing if your friends are alive or dead. Not knowing when—or even if—rescue is ever coming.
And then it adds another layer of intrigue, through the conclusions that one draws from the evidence. Jennifer is a mysterious character. Lucas and Mia can’t keep the look of guilt from their faces. And there’s a sea-monster somewhere out in the waves, waiting for nightfall to devour them all.
Sweetheart is now streaming on Netflix.