Written and directed by Coz Greenop, following the life of Isabella, a sex worker in the north of England, exploring the mind and day to day life of a woman working in the ‘managed zone’. Starring: Ariadna Cabrol, Kimberley Barrett, Lilybella Bayliss, Curt Faulkner, Philip Hill-Pearson and Bobby Hirston.
One of the film’s strongest qualities is one that appears almost immediately, which is its edge of realism, its opening scene establishes an overwhelming sense of disillusionment that sets the scene perfectly. It brings through that darker, cynical side of Isabella (Cabrol) to more effectively emphasise the impact of her interactions with Mark (Pearson). The writing really hits upon the meaningfulness of making a genuine connection with another person, especially for someone such as Isabella, in a vulnerable and lonely position. It explores the impact that has on her psychology but at the same time, demonstrates the idea that most people have the same basic desires, no matter who they are: to be loved and cared for. Even in its brief few minutes, watching this character does immediately make you think of how much risk there is for sex workers, seeing her get into the car of a complete stranger sets you slightly on edge. It’s a more subtle way of opening up a conversation about creating a safe space for sex workers, as well as whether having a ‘managed zone’ has any impact on that.
Although the story does introduce a romantic element, the directorial style doesn’t let that distract or take away from the overall tone, while still allowing the charm and sweetness of those moments to land. Greenop adds a very energetic quality to the direction in those moments, particularly the scenes filmed on the beach, it’s that classic feel of letting go, the solitude and peace allowing Isabella to briefly forget the rest of the world exists. It’s an impressive balance to strike in a short film, layering it with the more stark realism and being unafraid to get messy to achieve that grounded atmosphere. One of the interesting choices Greenop makes is the ending, as it feels very open to interpretation, the general message feels like one of hope and resilience but one or two more literal steps from the character would have solidified that whereas as it stands, it’s not definitive. There’s a sincere confidence in that choice, to let the audience figure it out for themselves or interpret it through their individual experience of the film.
Cabrol’s performance feels like another way the film uses balance in its favour, she holds back a lot of the time but then allows a more emotional, primal side to appear when it’s most impactful to the scene. She gives Isabella a very rounded character, you see several different sides to her and even if she doesn’t always say much, the body language that Cabrol uses gives a sincere impression of the kindness and sensitivity to her. Philip Hill-Pearson provides a very sweet, giving presence that brings out the softer side to Isabella and he has a great chemistry with Cabrol that’s slightly awkward and bumbling in a very fitting and authentic way.
Sweet Street takes on a very gritty story but does it with heart and sincerity, creating a film that feels extremely personal and authentic. The writing is layered and the is direction well-balanced, it emphasises the emotions of the story and smoothly adapts to them as it moves forward. It opens a conversation about the safety of sex workers and the inherent prejudice while simultaneously telling a relatable story of loneliness and human connection.