Norwegian dramedy Ninjababy proved among the strongest finds of 2021’s Heartland Film Festival. That story of a directionless woman who unexpectedly becomes pregnant found clever and compassionate ways to address the tension of that situation. Chiefly, Ninjababy understood that not wanting something, however much a part of you it may be, doesn’t make you a noxious person.
German dramedy Sweet Disaster proves among the most disappointing selections at 2022’s Heartland Film Festival. This story of a directionless woman who unexpectedly becomes pregnant perpetually confuses irresponsible acts for independent, empowering whimsy. Chiefly, Sweet Disaster doesn’t understand that its main character’s meddling feels more malicious than magical, and she is a noxious person.
At least Sweet Disaster has a fun opening image, in which a piece of bright, oversized luggage overwhelms the mechanism of an airport conveyor belt and outshines the gray baggage around it. The purple bag belongs to Frida (Friederike Kempter), a 40-year-old woman returning from a trip to Finland when she meets Felix (Florian Lukas of The Grand Budapest Hotel), a pilot drowning his sorrows at an airport bar after his girlfriend, Natalie, chooses to leave him for a job in Boston. When they strike up a relationship, all seems well … until Natalie decides to come back, Frida learns she’s pregnant, and Felix chooses the woman he loved for eight years rather than a few months.
From there, Frida indulges in one bad decision after another: withholding her pregnancy in a manner that complicates her career providing daycare for children with disabilities; ignoring medical advice that will keep her safe; meddling with the methods of the single mothers to a daycare charge and her teenage neighbor, Yolanda (Lena Urzendowsky), who wants to study engineering in Canada; sending Natalie pictures of her ultrasound on Facebook; breaking into Felix’s new apartment and trashing the place; and swapping shampoo for super glue. It’s like watching someone in the mental state of Alex from Fatal Attraction feted for her whimsical wiles a la (500) Days of Summer. (If that seems harsh, there is a moment where she nearly sends Felix and Natalie off a cliff.)
Screenwriter Ruth Toma and director Laura Lehmus temper all of this terrifying behavior with vibrant visual interludes for how Frida believes her life should go. When Felix tells her he’s leaving, she envisions him returning for a jazzy musical number in which he proposes. When some Baywatch-loving kids are around, she envisions David Hasselhoff playing with them. None of it is aided by an ostentatious electronic score from composer Boris Goltz. It’s clearly aiming for the same magical-realism vibes that, quite frankly, also pale next to what director Yngvild Sve Flikke accomplished with the title character of Ninjababy. Those hoping for a similar surprise discovery will find little sweet about this.
Sweet Disaster will screen during the 31st Heartland International Film Festival at:
- 5:15 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 11, at the Kan-Kan Cinema and Brasserie, 1258 Windsor St., in Indianapolis
- 5:15 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Landmark Glendale 12, 6102 N. Rural St., in Indianapolis
Sweet Disaster will also be available to stream online from noon Thursday, Oct. 6 through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16 (all times Eastern) through Heartland’s virtual platform.
Tickets are available at heartlandfilm.org/festival.