Sunlight Jr. is a tale of how even the brightest hopes and dreams can be dulled by the shadow of poverty and the darkened pale of reality. Naomi Watts, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus, and Tess Harper are featured in a movie both written and directed by Laurie Collier.
While Melissa (Watts) tries to make ends meet working a minimum wage job at a local mini mart, her boyfriend Richie (Dillon) does what he can despite being confined to a wheelchair. Together, they have dreams of a better life and do the best they can to endure even when it seems like everything and everyone is set against them.
Try as they might, their surroundings only provide more of a trap than any sort of opportunity and the ones closest to them seem to be the ones most adept at holding them back. From an overbearing boss to a persistently agitating ex-boyfriend (Reedus), Missy has no shortage of hard times, but when a life changing event comes to light, both she and Richie realize it is time to do everything they can to move ahead. Unfortunately, the life they have is the one thing holding them back from living out their dreams.
When it comes to intimate portrayals of life's hardened realities, I honestly have a hard time allowing myself to be drawn in. I'm the type of movie fan that prefers to see amazing adventures and epic tales filled with wondrous things although I can definitely appreciate when something is crafted with an expert hand no matter what the genre. With Sunlight Jr, Laurie Collyer goes deep into the woes of poverty, but also creates a very well thought out exploration of how humanity struggles to endure when faced with such hard circumstances.
This movie is also a showcase for Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon to stretch their legs and really dig into a couple of characters that are about as extraordinarily common as you will find in any corner of America. While I expected Ms. Watts to really shine as she has been on a bit of a roll of late, it was a more than pleasant surprise to see Mr. Dillon show what he can do with a smaller, more intimate role than what most folks might be accustomed to seeing.
Sunlight Jr. is one of those films that is really easy to like even if it isn't always a beaming ray of sunshine. What I found most impressive was Laurie Collyer's ability make something so good, it looks like she has been writing and directing films like this for years. Top that off with a couple of quality performances from two experienced and talented actors, and what you get is a memorable story that really hits home given what most of the country is going through these days.