Beautifully shot in tactile monochrome, Alexandre Rockwell’s film has the free-wheeling spontaneity of an improvised script and loose, organic camerawork.
It seems to hark back to a style of independent filmmaking (characteristic of the 90s and early 2000s) that valued a low-key, often mumbled, approach to the poetics of everyday life.
The film follows Billie and her younger brother Nico, both played by Rockwell’s own children (Lana and Nico respectively), in a family portrait that veers between joyful celebration and more troubling experiences: an alcoholic and mostly unemployed father (Will Patton) who is eventually signed into rehab, leaving the children with an unreliable mother and her abusive new partner.
Lana Rockwell gives a stunning and naturalistic performance and, in fact, so too do all the younger actors, allowing the film to successfully evoke the formative vulnerability of childhood, precariously balanced between wonder and fear.
Rockwell began his career with the independent comedy, In the Soup (1992) starring Steve Buscemi, and seemed poised at the beginning of a path that would spearhead an exciting home-spun vein of American indie filmmaking.
However, his subsequent filmography proved a more quietly received map of personal filmmaking. Sweet Thing is an exciting development that seems at once a return to Rockwell’s indie roots and an artistic evolution, providing a glimpse (as tender as it is tough) into a more ranging emotive palette.