New York Asian Film Festival (NYAFF) – As a mass consumer of dark comedy, I was excited to lay eyes on Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It. But being that the film is from a country I have yet to see cinema from, I was unsure of what to expect. I can say with certainty this is one of my favorite films I have reviewed this year. Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It is a good-time, blood-soaked buddy adventure gone wonderfully awry.
At the risk of appearing shallow, Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It begins with very traditional conflict. Das (Daniar Alshinov) is struggling to balance paying bills on time and appeasing his very pregnant (and very moody) wife Zhanna (Asel Kaliyeva). While shopping, he hears an ad describing fishing as the ultimate manly retreat. He’s hooked on the idea and wrangles up his friends for a day of relief. But very quickly things descend into total chaos (more on that later).
Though the setup is standard, director Yernar Nurgaliyev and the writing team do an excellent job of making the simple scene mean more. Traditional conceptions of masculinity are challenged by way of ridiculous happenstance. Themes of self-discovery, fatherhood, and gender roles are given to us in the form of a pill covered in candy-coated laughter, and it goes down smoothly.
Earlier I mentioned chaos, and chaos there is a-PLENTY. This is one of those “Murphy’s Law” movies where everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. I am quite the consumer of this type of film and what sets the good from the bad apart is the writing. Most Murphy’s Law films rely on chains of unfortunate events careening the protagonists into a chaotic abyss. But the chaos needs structure to be a good story otherwise it’s just that… chaos. The events in Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It are well thought out and cohesive, creating the RIGHT kind of chaos.
One of the most charming elements of this film was unexpected. As I sat down to watch it, I was unsure of what to expect. After 84 minutes of entertainment and laughter, I was left with a powerful message: the universality of film and the human experience. We can be born on opposite sides of the world, grow up and find that the same things make us laugh and cry. It was touching to me so moved by a film made on the other side of the world because it made me feel connected to people and places I had never seen.
Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It boasts an incredible cast. The characters are fully fleshed out and possess enough uniqueness to make them all interesting. Alshinov does an especially wonderful job as Das. He flawlessly juggles being a surface-level masculine archetype and struggling with very real concepts like fatherhood and self-discovery.
Though this film is a comedy, it is definitely on the darker side of the comedy coin. Audiences will quickly see that Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It earns the horror-comedy title in spades. Expect to see plenty of blood and lots of eccentric deaths.
Any fan of horror-comedy, dark comedy, or Murphy’s Law-type films will feel right at home in Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It. It has mayhem, crude humor, and heart and is not to be missed!
The film will screen as part of the New York Asian Film Festival, happening August 6-22.
8.5 out of 10