Murra (Shantae Barnes-Cowan) has been repeatedly abandoned by her mother over the years. She occasionally acts out in an effort to be seen, but mostly flies under the radar and tries to keep herself safe in a home filled with wild parties, substance abuse and potential male predators. When a party gets out of hand, Murra calls the police. Her mother takes off once again and Murra finds herself on a week-long photography camp for at-risk kids. Youth worker Mitch (Tasma Walton) and Nicaraguan-born Fernando (Carlos Sanson Jr.) give each of the participants a camera and ask them to tell their stories. They are encouraged to view the world from a different perspective and to use their voices in the photographs they take. Kylie (Mikayla Levy), angry and mad at the world, has no interest in being friends and wants nothing more than to get back to her abusive relationship with an older guy; Elvis (Pedrea Jackson) is venturing out for the first time since he was attacked and left for dead while walking home; and Sean (Andrew Wallace) is consumed by suicidal thoughts. This mixture of highly challenging youths, coupled with Murra’s tendency to take off when things get hard, give Mitch and Fernando a run for their money. But, despite some poor choices along the way, this trip might be just the thing that can turn the kids’ lives around. They are finally given a chance to be seen and heard, to prove they are capable and talented, to find their passion and their voices and to forge the most unlikely of friendships.
Family breakdown; parental neglect and abandonment; suicidal tendencies; post traumatic stress
Sweet As has some violence. For example:
- Murra, Kylie and a couple of random girls fight in a parking lot, hitting, pushing, and wrestling each other.
- Murra jumps into a pool with a heavy skate on her foot, sinking to the bottom. She does this on purpose and is ok but Sean is very angry at her after he tries to help her up and out of the pool. Murra gets angry too until Sean confesses that he thinks about killing himself all the time.
- Sean is standing on the edge of a cliff when Murra finds him after he had been lost. It seems as if he is considering jumping off to end his life. Murra throws her torch over the edge, where it smashes onto the ground, before taking Sean’s hand and leading him back to the campsite.
- Elvis tells the others how he was attacked while walking home one day. He tells them that a couple of guys grabbed him, roughed him up and left him to die. Before the photography trip, he hadn’t left his home since the incident happened.
- Elvis kills a bush turkey and everyone helps pluck out its feathers so they can cook it.
Sweet As has some sexual references. For example:
- A man grabs Murra and says that he just wants to have some ‘fun’ with her.
- A man asks Murra if she is going to be drinking alone.
- Sean admits to never having been kissed. Elvis asks the girls to help a brother out. Both Kylie and Murra refuse to kiss him.
- Murra asks how she would know if a guy really likes her and Kylie tells her that he would want to have sex with her.
- Kylie tells her mum to keep her hands ‘off her man’.
- Two random men tell Murra that she is a tease when she tells Kylie that they both should go.
- Murra and her new-found friends tease each other, saying, ‘you can’t handle all of this’. Referring to their bodies.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Sweet As has some substance use. For example:
- Murra returns home from school to find that her mother and another individual have passed out on the lounge, clearly having used substances of some sort.
- The remnants of drug use litter Murra’s house, as do numerous beer bottles and cans.
- Murra asks a random man to buy alcohol for her, which he does.
- Murra and the others drink from a box of alcohol.
- Murra and Kylie take a substance that 2 older men offer them. The girls lie down on the ground looking high and incapacitated.
Nudity and sexual activity
Sweet As has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Murra strips down to her underwear to go swimming in a water hole. She encourages Fernando to join her and then starts to flirt with him. He quickly swims away once he realises what she is doing.
- Murra kisses Sean on the cheek.
Sweet As has some product placement. For example, a Pentax camera is used on multiple occasions.
Sweet As has some coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Sweet As is a coming-of-age Australian drama. It’s written and directed by an indigenous female filmmaker and features a largely indigenous soundtrack, beautiful Pilbara-based cinematography, and believable heartfelt performances from its young cast. These give the movie a unique perspective into the lives of some very different people. There are some important lessons for teens in the movie, but this is not a movie for younger children. It’s best suited to older, mature, audiences.
These are the main messages from Sweet As:
- Everyone has a story to tell.
- Everyone has the right to be seen.
- Those who seem most invisible might have the greatest tales to tell.
- Broken things can be incredibly beautiful, powerful and meaningful, if we view them through the right lens.
Values in Sweet As that you could reinforce with your children are courage, self-reliance, honesty, friendship and forgiveness.
Sweet As could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the real-life consequences of things like:
- running off without telling anyone where you’re going
- drinking and taking drugs, especially from people you don’t know
- putting yourself in dangerous situations
- lying about where others are to try to get what you want, even if it puts them in danger.