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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

[Review] Netflix’s “Sweet Tooth” Brings Soaring Emotional Depth to Post-Apocalyptic Fairy Tale

Jeff Lemire’s comic series Sweet Tooth’s descriptor of “Mad Max meets Bambi” suits it well. It succinctly sums up both the narrative style and tone, a unique blend of grim dystopia and whimsical fantasy centered around an innocent deer child finding his way in a harsh new world. While post-apocalypse tales long developed a familiar blueprint and tropes that render most unaffecting, series creator Jim Mickle (Stake LandWe Are What We Are) knows how to establish emotional resonance in even the bleakest of settings. Netflix’s adaptation slowly worms its way into your heart and threatens to rip it out through awe, wonder, and character-driven emotional depth.

Narrated in a fairy tale format by James BrolinSweet Tooth takes place a decade after “The Great Crumble,” a pandemic that decimated civilization and wiped out a large percentage of the population. It coincided with the emergence of hybrids, babies born part human and part animal. The coincidence caused many to blame hybrids as the cause of the virus, so humans hunt them out of fear. After growing up within the safety of his secluded forest home, young deer-boy hybrid Gus (Christian Convery) unexpectedly befriends loner Jepperd (Nonso Anozie). The pair travels across the country for answers, discovering a lot more about the dangers of the world as well as themselves.

Much of the early dystopian worldbuilding looks and feels familiar. It’s in the way that nature is overtly reclaiming the land years after society’s collapse. The tell-tale divide between those simply trying to maintain their safe little corner of the world versus those attempting to reignite humanity through a totalitarian regime, with ferocious scavengers and poachers scattered between them. Even the initial setup that sees a reluctant loner taking a naïve youth under his wing adheres to the mold. Yet Mickle is no stranger to this arrangement and honing it into a poignant story that hits you in the feels regardless.

The production design elicits awe and wonder from the fairy tale shelter where Gus begins his journey into the sprawling countryside that makes this world feel larger than life. Even when it’s not so small in reality, Gus is the gravitational core for which all orbiting plot threads and stories eventually converge in some way. That includes Aimee (Dania Ramirez) opening her heart and home to the unwanted, Dr. Singh (Adeel Akhtar) struggling with morals in attempts to cure his ailing wife, and the ruthless General Abbott (Neil Sandilands) restoring order by any means necessary. The latter proves the weakest link, unable to break free from the confines of conventional, bland baddie. Luckily, it’s easily overlooked the more our protagonists develop and confront their flaws.

Convery is instantly winsome as Gus, instilling rooting interest straightaway as the precocious and endlessly endearing deer child. Anozie brings balance as the world-wearied loner looking to get rid of his tagalong at the first opportunity until he realizes he’s worthy of redemption. The unwitting father-son bond creates a heartfelt anchor that only deepens as peril mounts at every turn. The strange pair ground the whimsical first half of the season and uplift the back half as things grow dire. Sweet Tooth gets heartbreakingly dark and bleak as it barrels towards the finale.

The inaugural season only chronicles part of Gus and Jepperd’s journey, but what a mark it leaves. Mickle takes a fairly rote dystopian setup, runs it through a stunning fairytale-style filter to draw you in, then plunges you into abject darkness. Gus, Jepperd, and a slew of fully realized supporting players bring an impressive level of depth and development that shatters any preconceived notions. They imbue stakes that create tension and terror the more entrenched in the dark they get, and hope comes earnestly. The hybrids will wrap you around their furry little fingers, proving there’s still life plenty of life left post-apocalypse.

Sweet Tooth releases on Netflix on June 4.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3667642/review-netlfixs-sweet-tooth-brings-soaring-emotional-depth-post-apocalyptic-fairy-tale/

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