Sweet Sue  (15) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Leo Leigh, UK. 2023, 99 mins

Cast:  Maggie O’Neill, Tony Pitts, Harry Trevaldwyn

Review by Carol Allen

Maggie O’Neill is a good actress, who so far has had a reasonable career playing featured roles in television series.  But up until appearing in this film, a leading role in a big screen movie  has eluded her.   She plays the title role of sweet Sue – who can sometimes be somewhat acid – and she plays it very well.   Unfortunately this rather erratic first feature by writer/director Leo Leigh doesn’t really live up to her performance.

We first meet fifty something Sue necking a bottle of red wine alone in a restaurant, where she’s just been dumped – by phone, would you believe? – by her boyfriend.  We then discover a bit more about her put upon life. 

First there’s her dreary job running a party supply shop, whose patrons are very annoying.  Then there’s her mother,– lovely performance from Anna Calder Marshall – who’s stuck in an equally dreary old people’s home and  doesn’t seem to like her daughter very much. 

Soon after Sue’s ailing biker fan brother dies and she finds a glimmer of hope at his funeral, where she gets off with his middle aged fellow biker chum Ron (Tony Pitts) and they scandalise the funeral party by roaring off together on his motor bike made for two.

But the course of middle aged romance never did run true.  Ron, is to put it mildly, not the greatest of communicators.   But it’s when Sue meets his son Anthony (Harry Trevaldwyn) that things get really tricky.

 Anthony is an influencer, that vaguest of vague contemporary callings and aspires to be a dancer.   He is also so over the top camp that he makes Jullian Clary look positively restrained.  He has a much older boyfriend (Jeff Rawle), who doesn’t seem to get much out of the relationship, apart from being exploited, though to be fair to Anthony, his dancing, when we see it, isn’t all that bad.   It does though send Sue into hysterics of derisive laughter, which doesn’t go down well with Anthony. 

Much has been made of the fact that Leo Leigh’s parents are Mike Leigh and Alison Steadman and that Sweet Sue, which was developed through improvisations by the actors, is the sort of territory his parents explored in early work such as Abigail’s Party

That however was rooted in a heightened reality, whereas apart from Sue herself, the characters in this are more caricature and the plot itself a collection  of incidents looking for a sitcom.   The whole  mix doesn’t quite hang together as a story.  

Ms O’Neill comes out of it alright though in terms of both her character and performance.  I just hope next time she gets the leading film role she deserves in a somewhat meatier movie.