Written and directed by Laurie Collyer, Sunlight Jr. is a movie that deserves acclaim on nearly all fronts. Pitting Naomi Watts and the seldom seen Matt Dillon together has taken this independent film to the verge of being a classic. In order to offer movie fans a greater perspective on the successes that Sunlight Jr. enjoys, it is incumbent upon me to delve deeply into the performances of the two aforementioned superstar actors. In doing so the plot should be elucidated and Laurie Collyer's vision will become apparent.
In essence, Sunlight Jr. is about two strange bedfellows that are struggling to live on their own terms. The first of these tangoers is Justin (Dillon). Justin is handicap on account of an unseen accident that has confined him to a wheelchair. His car is equipped for driving safely and his wheelchair provides a degree of ambulation. Nevertheless, accommodations aside, Justin is living on a meager disability check and he is frequently one dollar away from an empty gas tank. His unlikely girlfriend is the wild and spicy Melissa (Watts). She is an employee at a local Sunlight Jr. gas station. Her situation is not quite as desperate but she seems to be spinning her wheels going nowhere fast. In the midst of their diurnal struggles and travails, the unexpected and ostensibly impossible happens; she becomes pregnant. Now, let's have a closer look at the film's two primary stars.
Matt Dillon's career has both verged on near superstardom and it has taken several meteoric downturns. Nevertheless, any movie he stars in benefits from his uncanny ability to project a charming virility that few possess or can translate onto the big screen. As the physically-disadvantaged Justin, Dillon is sensitive, gruff, charming, frigid, confident, pusillanimous, and rather beguiling. He showcases nearly a dozen emotions both listed and unlisted. Even better, his chemistry with Naomi Watts is a sight to behold.
Meanwhile, Watts has starred in a variety of high-budget pictures, some good, some bad, and some forgettable. Yet somehow, few will recall her ever having portrayed a near-the-edge woman on the cusp of starvation and ruin. Her nitty-gritty performance in Sunlight Jr. is awe-striking. Watching a world class actress, with a physique that defies age and all notions of gravity, portraying a penurious woman during bitter moments of struggle and real life turmoil is a fascinating experience. Viewers unfamiliar with her career might not recognize her in this movie, and that is the hallmark of a talented actress in the midst of total immersion.
The subject matter and the ending to Sunlight Jr. might be unsettling to viewers. Clearly, Director Collyer is not aiming to please everyone in the audience with a warm and fuzzy romantic comedy. Her writing exudes a certain desperation which is palpable. Her direction helped Dillon and Watts achieve a new sort of role that they succeeded with definitively. Overall, Sunlight Jr. is a master of many trades and a Jack of only a few. Watch and enjoy folks!!!
Watch the Sunlight Jr. Trailer here.