Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack's drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris' sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.
A fisheries expert is approached by a consultant to help realize a sheik's vision of bringing the sport of fly-fishing to the desert and embarks on an upstream journey of faith and fish to prove the impossible possible.
Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged London governess, finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse.
In the Yorkshire countryside, working-class tomboy Mona meets the exotic, pampered Tamsin. Over the summer season, the two young women discover they have much to teach one another, and much to explore together.
A family. Rose and Norah, in Albuquerque, lost their mother when they were young. Rose is responsible - a housecleaner, raising her seven-year-old son Oscar. She's also having an affair with Mac, a married cop, her high-school sweetheart. Norah can't hold a job. Their dad, Joe, is quirky. When Oscar is expelled for odd behavior, Rose wants to earn enough to send him to private school. Mac suggests she clean up after crime scenes, suicides, and deaths that go undiscovered for awhile. Rose enlists Norah, and Sunshine Cleaners is born. Norah bonds with the dead, Rose finds out that it's a regulated business, and complications arise. Can a family marked by tragedy sort things out? Written by
A struggling single mom named Rose (Amy Adams in her comedy/drama wheelhouse) gets tired of working for a maid service and boldly decides to branch out into crime scene clean-up with her lay-about sister Norah (Emily Blunt, ironically named) in Christine Jeffs' observant and easy-going "Sunshine Cleaning".
Although it has been marketed as one of those quirky dramedies the studios love to shove down our throats every year, Jeffs' film (from a solid screenplay from Megan Holley) is more in tune with somber yet hopeful indie character studies. The film deals with some dark subject matter and poignantly explores grief and family dysfunction but maintains a positive outlook and contains some solid situational laughs. The combination of an interesting set-up, smart writing, likable characters and winning performances make the film, even when it teeter-totters from dark to sappy, go down smooth. None of the characters seem forced upon us, unlike the overtly quirky family from "Little Miss Sunshine" or the stylized dialog spewing teens from "Juno". These characters talk and interact like real people and there's a naturalism in the way their relationships develop.
It makes for engaged viewing when a film like this doesn't feel the need to explain every detail or tie up every loose end so nicely. Some subplots involving Norah taking a personal interest in one of the clean-up jobs that leads to an awkward friendship with a blood-bank worker (Mary Lynn Rajskub of "24" fame) or a one-armed supply store guy (Clifton Collins Jr.) who takes a shine to Rose aren't resolved in a typical fashion, and some things are never made known or left open-ended. It makes the film feel truer to life. Even when Rose's precocious kid (Jason Spevack) tries to talk to heaven on a CB radio in what would normally be considered a contrived and cutesy moment, you feel like you've grown to know the character and it's just something he would do. Likewise, Alan Arkin as the sisters' scheming entrepreneurial father behaves and acts like a real guy who's had to struggle raising two girls alone and is just trying to help them catch a break.
Amy Adams, of course, is an absolute delight. Something about her girl-next-door good looks combined with her innate talents as a comedienne and her theatrical background that produces some of the best facial expressions and crying-on-cue you'll ever see make her the perfect choice for this type of role. While it's easy to sing the praises of Adams, and she's never been more endearing or relatable than here, Emily Blunt proves to be an excellent foil. It's Blunt's sharp portrayal and her character's story arc that provide the film its emotional weight. Both actresses deserve to be remembered come awards season, and "Sunshine Cleaning" is that rare spring-time bird: a film worthy of buzz.
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