Sweethearts – German Film Festival 2019 Palace Electric, May–June 2019

Sweethearts has it all: a jewellery heist, a panic-stricken hostage, arson, and shoot-outs. But it’s not quite what you’d expect, and pretty much everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

Franny (Karoline Herfurth), a woman whose uncontrollable nerves have rendered her a dysfunctional kluz, has the misfortune to cross paths with Mel (Hannah Herzsprung), a tough professional criminal who will do whatever it takes to protect her little girl, Holly. And so begins an action-packed comedic adventure.

Through their efforts to regain control of their lives, both Franny and Mel gradually reveal their true natures to delightful effect. All too often in films, the emergence of hidden qualities is portrayed unrealistically, with the protagonist turning from a lost cause into an unbeatable superhero. Gratifyingly, Franny and Mel don’t transform into unbelievable versions of themselves, but their individual humanity and true depth of character emerge movingly.

Although Franny and Mel are central to the film, there are other important figures, including policeman Harry (Frederick Lau), Detective Ingrid von Kaiten (Anneke Kim Sarnau), and Frank (Mel’s ex-husband and all-round bad guy). And then there’s Mel’s very little daughter, Holly (Luna Arwen Krüger), whose performance is remarkable. It’s hard to conceive of a better cast. Notably, Karoline Herfurth not only played the clumsy, nervy Franny, but also directed the film brilliantly.

The film’s locations were well-chosen to mirror the protagonists’ feelings almost as closely as the action. The settings sweep the viewer from crisis to crisis, from wastelands to run-down tenements to the frightening premises of dangerous and violent criminals, with great pace and dynamism.

With desperate decisions needing to be made on the fly, the best-laid plans being chronically undone, deft and unexpected twists and turns, and a little romance, Sweethearts makes for great viewing.

MICHELE E. HAWKINS and JOHN P. HARVEY

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