Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Sunlight Jr.

This sensitively observed humanistic drama features deeply moving performances by Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

Nov 15, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1389498-Sunlight_Jr_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon bring impressive emotional and physical heat to Sunlight Jr., writer-director Laurie Collyer’s beautifully observed character study of an unmarried couple living on the economic margins. Featuring the same humanistic qualities as the filmmaker’s last effort, Sherrybaby, this low-key gem shines a sympathetic light on an ever-growing underclass that too rarely receives cinematic exposure.

Very much in love, convenience-store clerk Melissa (Watts) and her paraplegic boyfriend Richie (Dillon) are barely making ends meet on his monthly disability checks and her low wages. Their harsh circumstances are immediately signaled in the opening scene, when they run out of gas on the way to bringing her to work.

Facing eviction from the rundown motel in which they live, they find their lives further complicated by Melissa’s abusive boss and her frequent run-ins with Justin (Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead”), the ex-boyfriend who keeps sniffing around now that a restraining order has been lifted.

Collyer’s minimalist screenplay revolves such less-than-earthshaking plot elements as Melissa being consigned to the graveyard shift and the news of an unplanned pregnancy. But it beautifully conveys the intense bond between the two principal characters, their love undimmed by their poverty.

Dillon, an actor who’s played more than his share of heavies, brings a tender sweetness to his portrayal of the wheelchair-bound, hard-drinking Richie, who’s not afraid to get in a physical dust-up with the muscular Justin despite his handicap. And Watts brings a sexy intensity to her turn as the beleaguered Melissa, whose hopes of getting into a college scholarship program are consistently thwarted.

Set in a seedy underbelly of southern Florida dominated by strip malls and swap meets, the film conveys its lower-class milieu with a bracing authenticity. The lowered expectations are vividly illustrated by Melissa’s mother (an excellent Tess Harper), who runs a makeshift childcare center in her home, telling her, “Richie never hit you…so you did good there.”

The film also includes—in a rarity for today’s prudish cinema—a torrid sex scene between Watts and Dillon that inevitably recalls the groundbreaking one featuring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in Coming Home 35 years ago.

Sunlight Jr. is unblinking in its bleak depiction of its main characters’ plight. But its positive portrayal of two mature people who truly respect and care for each other provides uplifting glimmers of hope.

The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Sunlight Jr.

This sensitively observed humanistic drama features deeply moving performances by Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.

Nov 15, 2013

-By Frank Scheck


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1389498-Sunlight_Jr_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon bring impressive emotional and physical heat to Sunlight Jr., writer-director Laurie Collyer’s beautifully observed character study of an unmarried couple living on the economic margins. Featuring the same humanistic qualities as the filmmaker’s last effort, Sherrybaby, this low-key gem shines a sympathetic light on an ever-growing underclass that too rarely receives cinematic exposure.

Very much in love, convenience-store clerk Melissa (Watts) and her paraplegic boyfriend Richie (Dillon) are barely making ends meet on his monthly disability checks and her low wages. Their harsh circumstances are immediately signaled in the opening scene, when they run out of gas on the way to bringing her to work.

Facing eviction from the rundown motel in which they live, they find their lives further complicated by Melissa’s abusive boss and her frequent run-ins with Justin (Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead”), the ex-boyfriend who keeps sniffing around now that a restraining order has been lifted.

Collyer’s minimalist screenplay revolves such less-than-earthshaking plot elements as Melissa being consigned to the graveyard shift and the news of an unplanned pregnancy. But it beautifully conveys the intense bond between the two principal characters, their love undimmed by their poverty.

Dillon, an actor who’s played more than his share of heavies, brings a tender sweetness to his portrayal of the wheelchair-bound, hard-drinking Richie, who’s not afraid to get in a physical dust-up with the muscular Justin despite his handicap. And Watts brings a sexy intensity to her turn as the beleaguered Melissa, whose hopes of getting into a college scholarship program are consistently thwarted.

Set in a seedy underbelly of southern Florida dominated by strip malls and swap meets, the film conveys its lower-class milieu with a bracing authenticity. The lowered expectations are vividly illustrated by Melissa’s mother (an excellent Tess Harper), who runs a makeshift childcare center in her home, telling her, “Richie never hit you…so you did good there.”

The film also includes—in a rarity for today’s prudish cinema—a torrid sex scene between Watts and Dillon that inevitably recalls the groundbreaking one featuring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight in Coming Home 35 years ago.

Sunlight Jr. is unblinking in its bleak depiction of its main characters’ plight. But its positive portrayal of two mature people who truly respect and care for each other provides uplifting glimmers of hope.

The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Timbuktu
Film Review: Timbuktu

A nuanced, humanistic portrait of a town besieged by jihadists, its images of violence suffused with almost surreal dreaminess. More »

Girlhood
Film Review: Girlhood

Drama of a female teen and her gang in a tough Paris project delivers some fine acting but is wobbly in its story of the young heroine’s sad journey into an ugly early adulthood. More »

Above and Beyond
Film Review: Above and Beyond

This fascinating true-life tale begs for feature-film treatment. More »

Supremacy
Film Review: Supremacy

Topical and accomplished filmmaking overcomes genre expectations. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Paddington
Film Review: Paddington

This feel-good, looks-great first-time big-screen adaptation of the beloved British children's stories about a stowaway Peruvian bear finding his, er, bearings in London is much more than just, oops, bearable. The handsome production greatly benefits from a top-notch cast of some of the U.K.’s finest actors and its beautiful blend of CGI-enriched live action and animated ursine star. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here