Sunlight Jr. (2013)

The true-story of people who call a Motel 6 “their home”.

Melissa and Richie (Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon) are old slackers just trying to get by in a world that’s moving a little too quick for them, and an economy that seems to be getting worse and worse. Melissa works at a gas-station/convenience store called Sunlight Jr., where she is constantly getting harassed by her dirt ball of a boss. But as crappy as that may sound, at least she’s the one with the job; on the other hand, Richie, due to the fact that he’s confined to a wheel-chair for reasons unknown, gets by drinking, going to the bar, fixing old VHS’s, trying to sell them and collect unemployment benefits for as long as he can. It’s not the ideal life for these two, however, it’s the only life that they can possibly have right now, so they stick with what they got. But once Melissa gets preggo, then things for this couple begin to get even more difficult by the days, especially since none of them can really control their emotions or their habits.

In case you couldn’t tell just by that synopsis right there, this one’s a pretty depressing and down-trodden thing to watch and get through, but somehow, it’s a movie that matters. Doesn’t make it perfect, or even worth watching, but if you’re in the right mood, at the right time, with the right ideas of knowing what to expect, then you got to give it a go. Here, let me explain some more.

In case you couldn't tell, they're sad.
In case you couldn’t tell, they’re sad.

What I liked so much about writer/director Laurie Collyer’s approach is that she never really finds herself jumping into over-the-top, melodramatic territory with this material, even though it definitely begs for that to happen. Every moment something bad or suddenly disastrous occurs to this couple, rather than showing us how heart-broken they must feel at that point in time, the movie takes the higher-road and shows that they have to move on, as quick as possible. The movie never settles on the fact that they’re poor, a little dumb and have the odds stacked highly against them, but rather, shows us that they know what’s going on in their lives and are trying their best to get past it. And if they can’t get past it, then they will sure as hell survive in it; that’s as much as they can do, and that’s all that they’re going to die.

However though, it wouldn’t be safe to call them “sympathetic” in the least bit, because they do make some bone-headed decisions. For instance, one scene here occurs about mid-way through where Melissa is told by her boss to not have her boyfriend behind the counter, counting the money and doing the job all for her. Two scenes later, that’s exactly what he’s doing, and why? Oh, well, it was all because she was tired, was in need of a nap and her boyfriend decided to step up to the plate and be a sweetheart. And by “be a sweetheart”, I mean, he risked her getting her beauty-sleep over having her job, making minimum-wage and being able to pay for his bum-self.

So yeah, it’s not like you feel totally sorry for these characters because while that scene was just one instance of their sheer stupidity at times, there are plenty more where that came from. But then again, they make some idiotic decisions that any human on this Earth would make, especially ones who probably make more than just $7.25-50-an-hour. They’re human-beings, they act silly sometimes, they don’t always use their heads and rather act on impulse. That’s how we all are, their only problem is that they have a mortgage to pay that they can’t keep up with and even worse, they got themselves a little baby on the way. Just adds insult to injury, doesn’t it?

Anyway, that’s why this movie works as well as it does and should at least be seen; because while it does have some very dark, deep and depressing moments that wouldn’t be the nice pick-me-up you need after you just get laid-off from your cashier job at Mickey D’s, there is still some honest-to-god realism and hope thrown in there for good measure, and it works. It doesn’t just show you that you have to stick up for yourself and say whatever’s on your mind in order to get what you want and demand that respect; in fact, I’d say it’s about the opposite. It’s a movie about people who know when to take shit, how to dish it back out and when worse comes to worse, and their lives on the line, how to just keep their mouths shut and keep on a movin’. Don’t have anybody fool you, but THAT, my friends, is “the American way”.

Just realizing that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.
Just coming to the realization that their lives are totally and completely fucked from here on in.

Hate to break it to ya, folks. But that’s the only way you’re going to get by in the world. And if you don’t think so, then just get a blog. Look what good it’s done me!

As down-trodden as this may all sound, the one aspect really keeping it alive and healthy are the performances from Dillon and Watts who, once again, show that if you give them a script worthy-enough of their talents, then they’re going to give you their all. And then some more. Dillon seems like he’s having a fun time being a charming loser, and gets a few scenes that seem more like he just said “screw it” to the script, and absolutely free-balled it. Makes me wish we saw more of him, as he’s a guy whom I still feel doesn’t quite get the credit he deserves. As for Watts, she does pretty damn good also as Melissa, showing us a gal that’s really got the odds stuck up against her, and yet, will continue to fight to survive for as long as she can possibly stomach. After stinkers like Movie 43, Adore and that oh-so-terrible Diana, it’s nice to see Watts acting her hiney off again, and actually getting more out of it, than what she just puts in. Keep it up, girlie, and stay the hell away from biopics and comedy! Please.

Consensus: Don’t depend on Sunlight Jr. to get you happy and hopeful for the future, however, do expect it to be a nice slap-in-the-face for facing reality, realizing what one must and wants to do, and noticing how they are totally two different things altogether. Then again, that’s life. That’s what all the people say.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

Oh yeah! And he's in this, too! But he doesn't have a cross-bow with him, so boo!
Oh yeah! And he’s in this, too! But he doesn’t have a cross-bow with him, so boo!

Photo’s Credit to:


  1. I almost saw this the other day, but I got the sense it was depressing and passed. Do intend to return to it soon enough, though. Too much buzz about the performances for me to skip entirely.

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