Every now and again there are some films which just depress me. You know the ones I mean, the ones that unfold very slowly and make you feel like nothing god can come at the end of this film. And once you have finished watching it you have this strong sense of realisation that everything is messed up in the world, and it drags you in quite a depressing mood. Sometimes as viewers we need to watch films with more of a realistic take on life, to bring us down to earth a little, to give us that kick up the ass or maybe to even kick us off our pedestals and let us feel something. That is how I felt after watching ‘Sweet Jane’. I had never heard of this film before, not up until a month ago as it was a recommendation, and I am glad I got the chance to find a copy of this film and watch it. After I watched ‘Sweet Jane’, it gave me a little glimpse into the life of a junkie. I have seen a fair share of drug related movies involving junkies, most of which are so overly dramatised and romanticised that it makes me get to a point when watching the film, that I just wish the junkies would die and then the film would end…cold right? Whereas in ‘Sweet Jane’, I felt something so different, I actually felt sympathy and even though I knew how the film was going to end, I just wanted a happy ending, but alas tragic stories like this just doesn’t happen like that.
Here is the run down. Jane(Samantha Mathis) is a junkie who has overdosed and winds up in hospital, and is given the news that she is indeed HIV positive, yep so as you can see not the most positive note to start the film on. We then cut to a scene of Tony (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)a young kid who is being forced to take his medication much to his dismay. We then cut to Jane escaping the hospital and Tony following her. When she realises he is following her she makes it clear she wants him to leave her alone, but after much persistence she just lets him tag along. At this point Jane is trying to do whatever she can to get money for a fix of heroin, even starring in a cheap porn film but gets herself out of it before shit got really real. But as we get say 40 minutes into the film we start to see Jane and Tony bond, and become close, something that Tony wants yet Jane is relearning how to let her guard down. As the story unfolds more and more, we learn a lot more about Tony and the film focuses a lot more on him. Obviously knowing more about his past really says a lot about him, and shows he has gone through a lot for such a young kid. The film is under 90 minutes long, so it isn’t a film which drags it’s story out for ages before we learn anything vital about the main characters, everything is pretty well structured and fairly quick paced. I think if it was a tad bit longer, we could have learnt more about the characters, because even though the characters were developed well, I still think there was a chunk missing from the film. I think they needed to have a bit more layers in the context and not just make nearly everything surface value.
Samantha Mathis did a great job in portraying junkie, Jane. You could see she was a lost young woman, who only found solace in the heroin she let flow through her veins. She felt challenged by nothing in her life until she is told she is HIV positive. And even when she is, she tries to ignore it by getting her hands on more drugs. We see her character doesn’t like to be close to anyone until she really starts getting to know Tony, but we don’t really find out why she is the way she is, surely something out there had to have spun her into the direction of being an emotionally cut off junkie. I think the only time she really feels anything is when she is high, she looks dead without it. Obviously in the second act of the film we do see her feel emotions without being high, which is interesting to see, but at times I found it to be a little unbelievable how quickly you can bring down those walls that you have had up to guard you for so long and be vulnerable and actually feel pain. In my own experience years of putting up walls takes more than
just a few days to bring back down, but hey maybe I shouldn’t look too far into it because it is after all just a movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt played his character of Tony exceptionally well, and dealt with and portrayed the emotions of his character very simply. You could tell there was always something on Tony’s mind, which was important to him, he was a deep thinker. You can also tell in his eyes that Tony had seen a lot and experienced a lot of hardships for such a young kid. In the second act of the film we see what he really thinks come to light and we get an insight into what he went through growing up. I think with his character the less information we know about his back story the better because I think his characters life is more affective on screen when you have to imagine it yourself.
While the film does revolve around Jane’s heroin usage it isn’t the only thing that the film is about. The film is also about finding that person you can connect without there, someone who can love you as a friend and accept you for what you are, and try and pull you out of the most roughest times of your life. And even though this film does end quite sad, you cannot help but think these characters help each other and impact one another’s lives. I liked this film because it wasn’t all about the heroin use. It wasn’t portrayed as this glorified drug movie, which went into ‘depth’ on what happens when you take the drug for majority of the film. Most drug related films portray the users as these invincible rockstars who are far ‘too intelligent’ for this world so the only way they can go beyond what they already are is take drugs. And I hate the fact you are chastised because you don’t see the ‘beauty’ and ‘honesty’ in those films. I would rather listen to an actual junkie and let them tell me about why they do it and what it is actually like taking the drug and being actually dope sick. ‘Sweet Jane’, isn’t a glorified drug-fest which is ‘wild’ and ‘out there’, it’s about someone being able to change your life. Even if they are only in your life for a brief moment, the impact they have is great and it is something that can change the route you were originally planning to go down in; so don’t get that twisted. If you haven’t seen this film, and you want to, don’t go in thinking you are going to get this cult film, with a memorable soundtrack and scenes which are ‘edgy’ because it’s not. It’s not a glossy production, it’s just a film with a solid, simple story, great dialogue and strong emotion. Definitely give this film a watch, because it definitely is a forgotten gem. There isn’t much I can say about this film without giving too much away and also the mood after you watch the film just can’t be described, it is something you need to see and slowly take it in. If you are having an amazing day however, it may not be the best film to watch especially if you get emotionally invested into films like I do. I watched this along with 2 other films on the same day because if I was going to stick with one depressing film, I may as well keep going with that mood because nothing was going to make that mood better; really not trying to sound morbid or depressed or anything, but I got to experience 3 films which I enjoyed and which made me think. But out of the 3 that I watched ‘Sweet Jane’ was definitely the stand out film.