Sunlight Jr. is a movie that outlasts its point, if it even had a clear one to begin with.
While telling the story of a poor couple struggling through life because of their poverty is admirable, a fictional account that goes on this long tells us nothing and accomplishes very little. A documentary on the same subject matter following a real life couple would have had some more legitimacy to it, but as it is, Sunlight Jr. is about an hour longer than it needs to be.
Watts and Dillon play Mellissa and Ritchie, respectively. Ritche is wheelchair bound, and spends all days drinking or being drunk. Mellissa works a soul-crushing minimum wage job. Their home is tiny and awful. They have no hope or options for the future. To compound their squalor, Mellissa falls pregnant, adding a new conundrum to the mix.
There’s a very fine line between showing a genuine portrayal of lower class life, and having poverty porn on display for 90 minutes. I’m undecided into which category this film falls into, but it does veer dangerously close at points, as certain things do seem purposefully designed to only make these people’s lives even worse, for dramatic purposes. However, Dillon and Watts are fine actors, and manage to carry across a good sense of likeability and honesty at the same time. However, both look a little bit too well-groomed at times, a bit too “Hollywooded” in a sense, to be authentic. Both are also about ten or fifteen years too old, being in their late 40s both.
Yes, life can be very hard for the underprivileged. This is something any sane, non-sociopath should know. But especially when you live in a country where enormous poverty is in your face every day, having a movie act like you don’t know about any of it is a little bit insulting and aimless. Sunlight Jr. is okay, I suppose, but seems very disconnected from the real world it attempts to portray.