9 October 2013 | gradyharp
Succeeds because of Watts and Dillon overcoming a sorry script
This is Laurie Collyer's second outing as a writer and director (her debut was the excellent 'Sherrybaby' with Maggie Gyllenhaal) and it is sad to see that the film, despite some very impressive acting from a small cast, simply doesn't get off the ground.
Set in a rather smarmy location in Florida, Sunlight Jr. is a love story at odds with the times and with the conditions that surround the characters. Melissa (Naomi Watts) works the day shift at a convenience store called Sunlight Jr., managed by a repulsive toad named Edwin (Antoni Corone) and assisted at shift change by the funky Vivian (Adrienne Lovette). Melissa lives in a motel with her paraplegic, wheelchair-confined boyfriend Richie (Matt Dillon) whose only income is a disability check. The couple is in love and Melissa becomes pregnant. In the joy of the discovery Richie asks Melissa to marry him, but Melissa loses her job and they are evicted from the motel, they face difficult choices about life and their relationship. They attempt to live with Melissa's alcoholic mother (Tess Harper) who runs a foster home in her tiny house, but the stress overcomes both Melissa and Richie, and the added stalking from Melissa's previous boyfriend Justin (Norman Reedus) provides further stress. The manner in which the couple works things out provides the rest of the story.
Watts and Dillon offer memorable performances, even given the weak and clichéd script Collyer has written. It is a depressing film buoyed up by the inner resilience Watts and Dillon instill in their characters. We are left with the feeling that with the addition of more substance to the film, this may have actually worked. It does show how excellent actors can save a mediocre movie.