When walking into the theater for a screening of Sunlight Jr., know one thing: The reference to sun in the title is this film’s only bright spot Sunlight Jr. is story of two broke, living-below-the-poverty-line people, Melissa (Naomi Watts) and Richie (Matt Dillon). Melissa works at Sunlight Jr., a 24-hour convenience store. She has a jerk of a boss—one of those guys who flaunts what little power he has as assistant manager over his subordinates—and is working double shifts just to scrape by. Richie’s situation is just as difficult. He’s confined to a wheelchair, works odd jobs, and siphons gas for his car. And he’s an active alcoholic. When Melissa learns she’s pregnant, there’s a brief pause for joy followed by more misery. Sunlight Jr. is a hard movie. Not just because of its subject matter, but casting Watts as a barely educated redneck doesn’t quite work; she’s never able to suppress her natural polish. And Dillon is Dillon, which, depending on how you feel about him, works or doesn’t work. The camera work—dingy dark spots punctuated with the sun’s brightness—looks right, but the rest of tone is off. Sunlight Jr. doesn’t quite come together. (DR)
CCA Cinematheque, NR, 95 min.