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Kiersey Clemons in Netflix's Sweetheart

The terror steps out of the ocean and into your home in Netflix and Blumhouse Productions’ monster movie Sweetheart. Sweetheart isn’t a typical direct to video horror film full of jump scares and cheap thrills: it’s a monster feature that’s also a survivalist tale. The movie follows a young black heroine named Jennifer, delicately played by Dope star and future Iris West Kiersey Clemons. All throughout Sweetheart, Jennifer must learn to survive and overcome both real and metaphorical monsters, leaving fans with a satisfying but ambiguous ending.

Sweetheart also stars Brooklyn and The OA’s Emory Cohen, Hanna Mangan-Lawrence, Benedict Samuel, and Andrew Crawford as the film’s monster. Sleight director J.D Dillard directed and co-wrote Sweetheart. This monster film hit festival circuits in early 2019, and then had an official Netflix release on December 25. Sweetheart has received rave reviews and sparked conversations about the film’s deeper messages. The ending leaves viewers wondering about Jennifer’s future. Because this feature discusses the plot and ending of Sweetheart**, expect major spoilers!**

Kiersey Clemons in Sweetheart

What Happened At The End of Netflix’s Sweetheart?

Sweetheart follows Jennifer as she tries to survive on an island after a storm causes a party boat to crash. This incident strands Jennifer, her boyfriend Lucas (Emory Cohen), and their three friends Zack, Brad (Benedict Samuel), and Mia (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence). Sweetheart opens with Jennifer washed ashore. She soon discovers a badly wounded Brad, who asks her one final question, “Did you see it?” before dying. The “it” in the film isn’t revealed until a little later. Now all alone, Jennifer must figure out how to survive on a deserted island. She quickly adapts to her situation, learning to fish, build shelter, and survive against a sea monster.

After Jennifer buries Brad, the next morning she finds his corpse dug up and seemingly devoured. Later, she tries to use a flare gun to call for help, which alerts the monster to her whereabouts. Jennifer then spends the next several nights trying to avoid turning into the creature’s next meal. About a week into her isolation, she finds Lucas and Mia floating on a raft.

Jennifer lets them eat before telling them of the dangers on the island. She wants to leave immediately, but they don’t quite believe her. They're exhausted and want time to rest and regain their strength. Lucas and Mia try to convince Jennifer that it’s safer to stay on the island than floating out in the ocean on the raft. This leads to Jennifer trying to escape and leave them there, but Mia knocks her out and then ties Jennifer to a tree.

Continuously, Jennifer tries to make them see that the monster will appear soon. The pair start to bring up things from their past. Mia mentions an incident where Jennifer supposedly lied about being mugged, causing her to not trust Jennifer’s versions of events. Then Lucas reveals what happened during the day their boat crashed.

Jennifer tried to leave Lucas because she wasn’t happy, and then a storm took the boat or yacht down. While Lucas continues to belittle Jennifer, Mia finally meets the monster. Lucas hears her distress and goes to save her, but it’s too late. She becomes the monster’s next meal. The following morning, Jennifer and Lucas prepare to leave the island by gathering supplies and weapons.

Once on the raft, the creature surprises them with an attack. It tears the raft and pulls Jennifer out of it, with plans to take her to the bottom of the ocean. She manages to wound the monster a few times with Lucas’ pocketknife.

Lucas also leaves the raft to try to save Jennifer, but the monster captures him instead. Jennifer screams as she watches the monster drag Lucas to the bottom of the ocean to die. After making it back to the island and restoring the fire that had nearly gone out, Jennifer decides to fight the monster. She writes down her story, builds spears from wood, and waits for nightfall.

Jennifer starts a fire to draw the creature’s attention, and she then ambushes it, getting in several stabs. The monster keeps coming and Jennifer keeps stabbing it with anything available. Eventually, the wounds are too much for the monster to continue. He falls to the ground and dies. Jennifer then severs its head. We watch her walk on the island and behind her, we can see that a major fire has begun to spread across the trees.

The Sweetheart Monster

What Is The Sweetheart Monster?

Before a few major confrontations between Jennifer and it, viewers slowly get glimpses of the monster throughout Sweetheart. The monster seems to be some sort of mutated fish-like creature. It has fins, claws, and an amphibian face. The body of the creature is more human like with muscles, legs, and arms of sorts. The Sweetheart monster doesn’t seem to have enhanced hearing or seeing abilities, but it appears to be sensitive to light, as that is what drew it to Jennifer in the first place and during the final confrontation.

It also has super strength and speed, as it easily captures and wounds its prey. The claws of the monster are very sharp, as shown through the dead fish that Jennifer discovers at the beginning of Sweetheart. It seems drawn to eating any sort of living life, not just humans. Once it captures its prey, it presumably eats all of them. This likely means that the monster is not responsible for Zack’s severed corpse.

The monster is very tall, as seen through its engagement with any of the humans. It also mainly operates in the sea, but comes on land during the night. If the monster is sensitive to light, then this explains why it only hunts on land during the daytime.

Because it tries to attack Jennifer and Lucas once they enter its part of the sea, this likely means that the monster doesn’t just sleep during the daytime. It is slightly unclear why the monster didn’t try to attack Jennifer and the others when they were in the sea during the daytime earlier, especially since Lucas, Mia, and possibly Zack, were floating on a raft at one point. It could be because Lucas and Mia never floated deep enough for the monster to see them, or maybe it only operates at a certain part of the ocean.

The monster is the main beast of Sweetheart, but there are other less obvious monsters in the film.

Emory Cohen and Kiersey Clemons in Netflix's Sweetheart

What Are The Themes And Messages In Sweetheart?

In an interview with Refinery29, Kiersey Clemons mentions that the idea of Sweetheart sparked as a reaction to the 2016 election, so it has a lot of underlining political themes. One of the major themes is privilege. Almost immediately, Mia and Lucas treat Jennifer as lesser than them, and they refuse to believe her about the island, despite her having lived there longer. They immediately assume they know better and that she’s being dramatic. When Lucas confronts Jennifer about trying to break up with him, he treats her as inferior, saying that he pays for everything she owns, she has nothing without him, and that she’s a black cloud around his life. It’s made clear that Lucas and his friends are wealthier than Jennifer.

Kiersey Clemons also mentions how Lucas and Jennifer’s relationship is a toxic one, which could lead to the interpretation that Lucas is also one of the monsters of the film. Mia and he are also threats to Jennifer’s life, because they refuse to believe her and treat her with disdain. Early in Sweetheart, Jennifer also pulls out a picture of Lucas and her that shows him wearing a devil mask. This could be the film’s cheeky way of noting that Lucas is a devilish figure. Additionally, Mia and Lucas can also represent literal threats to Jennifer’s life as it’s implied that they had a part in Zack’s death. This is shown through the blood inside the raft, the blood on Lucas’ pocketknife, and how Zack is severed in half, not completely eaten, which is the monster’s trademark way of killing people.

The title of the film, Sweetheart, also seems to refer to the condescending way some men try to belittle women by referring to them as sweetheart. Lucas uses this phrase a few times in the movie, both as an affectionate nickname and as a way to speak down to Jennifer.

Overall, Sweetheart addresses many themes of race, gender, abuse, and privilege. However, the overall message of Sweetheart seems to be about how survivors become heroes through their constant battles with things that try to destroy them. Jennifer survives the island, then the monster, and finally her toxic relationship with Lucas. She overcomes all these obstacles to become the hero of the film and her own story.

The actual ending of Sweetheart leaves things up for interpretation. Jennifer beats the monster but now she must decide whether to wait on the island in the hopes of being spotted by a plane or maybe try to repair or build a new raft. There's also the matter of the island being on fire. Possibly, the island on fire could help her get found because a fire that big could attract the planes that we've heard flying nearby. The fire also presents another big danger for Jennifer. Eventually, there may not be anything left of the island, leaving Jennifer no way to survive if she's not discovered.

Clemons also mentioned that Director J.D Dillard said that the film didn’t nicely wrap things up with Jennifer being found because he wants to show that just because someone survives a horrible ordeal doesn’t mean that it’s over.

“JD said something really dark to me about this. He said: “At the end, I like that Jenn is left there because it’s a metaphor for life. You can slay your demons, you can rid yourself of the toxic and bad people and feelings, but there will always be the next challenge. You’re still stuck on the island.’”

The severed head of the monster is supposed to be Jennifer’s way of letting people know her story. Whether she survives or dies, the head remains as proof that her story is real. Sweetheart also has the message of believing survivors' stories. Lucas and Mia’s quick dismissal of Jennifer’s story likely represents how people often refuse to believe the victim, and how it takes concrete proof for others to finally see and hear them.

Netflix’s Sweetheart is a horror movie gem that takes viewers on Jennifer’s journey, while asking them to evaluate the social and political monsters that they face daily. It’s a very interesting film that could one day become a cult classic. Sweetheart is now streaming on Netflix.

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