Thursday, November 14, 2013

“Sunlight Jr.” – Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we saw the drama “Sunlight Jr.”, starring Naomi Watts & Matt Dillon.


When a poor couple learns they’re expecting a baby, will they be able to support the child or will the stress ultimately drive them apart?


Melissa (Watts) and Richie (Dillon) are barely able to scrape by. Between her job as a cashier at Sunlight Jr., a Florida convenience store, and the disability checks Richie gets due to becoming a paraplegic following an accident working at his construction job, they get creative for survival. While Melissa brings home discarded food from the store, Richie spends his time and money drinking, either alone or with friends, at the motel where the couple resides. Despite her steady job, Melissa finds work difficult because of an obnoxious boss and an ex-boyfriend, Justin (Norman Reedus), stalking her there and trying to lure her back to the drug abuse from which she is determined to recover.

Good news finds its way to the couple when Melissa discovers she’s pregnant. With the prospect of parenthood in their future, this happy couple is delighted they can finally start a family. But around this time, Melissa gets a shift change at her job and must now work overnights instead of the daytime period she’s been on for the past eight months. Reluctantly, she tries to work these hours, but after quickly proving unreliable in the new time slot, she is immediately fired. With no job and prospects of work severely limited for Richie due to both his disability and limited skills, they are evicted from the motel.

Forced to move in with Melissa’s alcoholic mother (Tess Harper), the couple’s stress level rapidly increases. Fighting continuously due to a lack of privacy and money, Richie can’t take it any longer, so he leaves Melissa in the middle of the night. Now alone, Melissa questions whether or not she could raise the baby by herself. Even with Richie, could the two properly care for an infant with both of them unemployed? Scared and desperate, Melissa concludes she must get an abortion. Lacking funds, she begs Justin for money for the procedure. But will Melissa go through with this even if Richie returns?


Remember that 47% of United States citizens Mitt Romney referred to during his presidential campaign last year? Well, you might be glad to know that a bunch of them wound up here in “Sunlight Jr.”. This depressing story is more sober than any of its characters as it details a slice of life from a couple that appears to be doomed to poverty for the remainder of their life, either together or separately. While the film might suggest that the poor are by definition pitiable and deserving of public assistance due to the economic system in which we live, it fails to acknowledge that these specific characters are also victims of their own reprehensible behavior and ill-advised life choices.

Laurie Collyer, who directed her own script, has presented us with lead characters for whom audiences may find it an overwhelming challenge to root. Exactly what admirable qualities do Richie and Melissa possess? Why would reasonable people get behind them emotionally and hope they succeed? However Richie became disabled, he decides that the only way he can deal with it is to drink himself into oblivion. Melissa, a woman with clearly limited and unmarketable skill set, ignores how lucky she is to even have a job in the first place and wastes an excellent opportunity to dig herself, her unborn baby and her partner out of an incredibly deep hole. It is only when she takes an action near the end of the film that she shows any capability of making a mature, responsible decision.

Prior to the screening, our instructor interviewed actress Shirley MacLaine, promoting her new book, “What If?”. While I’d like to be able to summarize her comments on the book, I have to admit that whenever this woman gets into her cosmological and epistemological musings, I do seem to have a distinct tendency to zone out altogether. Instead, what I will focus on is her conversation about the PBS darling, “Downton Abbey”. She said that although she watches PBS, it is mostly for the news; as a result, she was unfamiliar with this particular television show when originally sent the script. Although she was eager to work on something from that time period set in England with elaborate costumes and sets, her primary interest in taking the job was to work with her old friend Maggie Smith, whom she says she has known for over 40 years.

What If . . .: A Lifetime of Questions, Speculations, Reasonable Guesses, and a Few Things I Know for Sure: Shirley MacLaine: 9781476728605: Books




  Sunlight Jr. (2013) on IMDb 5.8/10418 votes

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