The Sweet East

During a picaresque journey through the cities and woods of the Eastern seaboard of the United States, Lillian, a high school senior from South Carolina, gets her first glimpse of the wider world. Separated from her schoolmates while on a class trip to Washington, D.C, she embarks on a fractured road trip in search of America. Along the way, she falls in with a variety of strange factions, each living out their own alternative realities in our present day.


The Sweet East. Does it mean anything or everything? I'm still not sure. What I do know is that Sean Price Williams's film is, after an (intentionally) insufferable start, a provocatively chaotic, tense and amusing gem. 



Chapter by chapter, Lillian (a compelling Talia Ryder) is both underestimated and objectified by the people she encounters. Occasionally breaking the fourth wall (and in one scene breaking into song), she views them with a wry sense of bemusement and detachment. Smart and perceptive, she then manipulates them at will.


The Sweet East highlights the divisive isolation that lies at the heart of each group that Lillian meets. In the film's first act, she is separated from her phone - a fact that seems incredible to many. The world has never been more obsessively connected and, yet, more devastatingly divided. 




Some chapters in Lillian's journey work better than others. Simon Rex gives a stand out performance as an academically verbose Neo Nazi and Edgar Allan Poe obsessive. Through Lillian's eyes we see him as both pathetic and chilling, impotent and dangerous.


I was particularly looking forward to Ayo Edebiri's appearance as film director Molly and (of course) she did not disappoint. However, while often amusing, the film falters somewhat during this chapter, suffocated by its own frenetic wordiness until it is revived by a gloriously violent set piece (watch out for a startling moment with Jacob Elordi).


While it won't be everyone's cup of tea, The Sweet East has a wry charm that keeps you engaged and I, for one, am always grateful for filmmakers who are willing to indulge in weirdness and colour outside the lines.

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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