Sweet Disaster is a charming family dramedy that navigates the difficulties of pregnancy and motherhood with a bittersweet optimism and refreshing transparency.
Why must all inconveniences be tragic? Is there not a way to embrace life’s unexpected trials with open arms, knowing that without them, everything would be a lot more…dull? Laura Lehmus’ new introspective and meditative comedy/drama Sweet Disaster raises these questions and more, as it explores the unstable relationship between two ex-lovers navigating the uncertain terrain of parenthood. It’s an extremely thoughtful film that makes a lot of bold, unconventional choices in its storytelling – leaving us with the amusingly colourful exterior of a comedy that encases a much more solemn narrative. It’s a tragedy that never wallows in its own self-pity, deciding instead to teach an important message of perseverance and acceptance in the face of adversity.
In the opening scene of Sweet Disaster, our protagonist Frida (Friederike Kempter) has a chance encounter with a mysterious, charming man named Felix (Florian Lukas) in the lobby of an airport and, in traditional cinematic fashion, the two fall hopelessly in love through a dreamlike montage of love, affection and romance. However, the film quickly becomes an unstoppable comedy of errors as Frida falls pregnant, loses her husband to his ex-wife, and falls more and more behind in her career – and it’s this subversive take on the traditional rom-com that makes Sweet Disaster so entertaining and refreshing. It doesn’t adhere to what we’ve come to expect from the genre, instead weaving plenty of relatable and even philosophical ideas into a hilariously morose story that’s impossible not to connect to. The situation is undoubtedly tragic and unfortunate, but it’s written and directed in such a way that makes this tragedy into more of an amusingly wistful melancholy, effectively blending genres and making something totally unique.
When you begin to consider just how easily Sweet Disaster could have been a failure, it seems almost miraculous that it manages to get things just right. Without the pitch-perfect lead performances, the bold and daring use of colour, the charming and witty dialogue and the precise balancing of tones, the film would not have been anywhere near as successful as it is. But thankfully, writer Ruth Toma manages to understand these characters on a fundamental level, and the way she scripts their interactions is always compelling. She effortlessly weaves tonnes of insightful commentary into the film’s dialogue, which elevates the character’s conversations beyond mere realism and begs for the audience’s critical engagement. The film has so much to say – not only about its central themes of pregnancy, motherhood and romance, but also about how we perceive and respond to the inevitable problems that come along with these concepts.
One of Sweet Disaster’s most striking aspects is its use of colour – or more accurately, the way they’re used to contrast each other to convey the film’s message. Every frame is filled with bright and bold colours, no matter how bleak or depressing the content of the scene is. It creates this sense of perpetual happiness, or at least optimism, that runs throughout the narrative and perfectly compliments the offbeat humour and eccentric comedy that characterises the film. Not everything has to be sad, even when it’s tragic. Sweet Disaster endorses a more hopeful outlook on life, and it’s unbelievably refreshing to see a rom-com that draws its humour from empathy, rather than misfortune.
As far as romantic comedies go, Sweet Disaster is one of the most original and imaginative ones in recent memory. It doesn’t fall victim to any of the clichés that the genre often suffers from, instead adopting its own unique approach to storytelling that culminates in an extremely touching and relatable story that might start off with one woman’s pregnancy, but touches on an unbelievably wide array of social and philosophic concepts along the way. Every character brings something new to the table, and the way that they interact with each other feels extremely authentic and grounded in reality, despite the film’s often expressionistic approach to storytelling. There aren’t many films out there like Sweet Disaster, and that makes it all the more special for achieving what it does.
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