Sugar Cube follows James (Matt Marasco), a barista who is in love with his best friend Sarah (Tess Dobrè), despite feeling as if his love isn’t reciprocated.
One of the best parts of this film is the female lead, Sarah. For a film with a very simple plot, the characters are really the only thing that can differentiate this film from a thoughtful film about sex and toxic relationships to another 500 Days of Summer (2009) wannabe. In Sugar Cube, Sarah leads the film and drives it forward into raw places, where we see her as a complicated woman who is the catalyst in many toxic relationships.
Her character is a love and sex addict, not in the way where she sleeps with strangers in supermarket toilets and goes to self-help meetings, but in the low-key destructive manner that many of us have stumbled across in real life; unreturned texts, commitment issues, broken promises.
Sarah is every one of us who have been hurt and have passed that hurt onto our ex’s successor’s, throwing bitterness onto seemingly innocent relationships. In Sugar Cube, we see Sarah throw this pain, confusion, lack of commitment and stability in her life onto her best friend of many years James, who willingly loves her despite it all. But James is no knight in shining armour and is toxic in his own right.
We spend most of the film trying to decide whose side we’re on, who to root for, who’s the good and the bad. But much like in real life, both leads have their own demons, and as we watch we realise that the seemingly ‘nice guys finish last’ James character is in fact as responsible for this mess as much as Sarah. James pinning his hopes and expectations on someone who can never meet them, because people are complicated, and never what we build them up to be in our minds.
This film creates a dialogue where we all see the implications that one-sided expectations and communication can bring. Towards the end of the film, we find James to be just as destructive; too wound up in his own world and thought-process of how Sarah needs to be saved when she needs the support of a friend more than she needed a new love interest.
Sugar Cube focuses on the Melbourne hospitality scene heavily, interestingly looking at it from the inside and not the outside. Showing what happens behind closed doors, and the stories of the people who put their time into Melbourne’s prestigious food scene. The film focuses on the hospitality community, and how a hospitality family can become incestuous very quickly (hence the ‘don’t screw the crew’ mentality that many bars and cafes have established).
There’s something about the long nights, early mornings and close-knit team environment that seems to breed sexual tension and dirty manager’s desk hookups, which is seen in Sugar Cube. It’s nice for those of us who are working in hospitality to have a story that equates to where we spend our forty or fifty hours a week. A side that many office jockeys, tourists and the like don’t see or know – the humans working hard behind some of the best food and wine in the world.
The supporting characters are well crafted, designed to show how their life is moving along, especially as we see some turn their workplace hookups into serious relationships, growing as people whilst Sarah and James stay stationary at best. A feeling many of us have felt in our twenties, which seems to be a constant race to the finish line of marriage, children and a meaningful career, all the signs that we’ve made it as fully-fledged adults, something we see Sarah show a blatant disregard for.
As for entertainment value, the film provides a new take on the classic romantic ‘I’ve been in love with my best friend for years’ film fiasco and showcases this story in a more realistic setting. The characters have depth and show an all-too-real turbulent relationship, which is refreshing in a world filled with plastic romantic comedies.