Comedy / Drama

Sunshine Cleaning

Distributed by: Overture Films

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            As I researched the film while listening to the Sunshine Cleaning Soundtrack, I just knew I had to see it.  The storyline seemed incredibly intriguing.  This was a story I couldn’t remember having been done before with actors I respected. Having missed its theater run, I couldn’t wait until Sunshine Cleaning hit the video rental stores.

            The movie stars Amy Adams as Rose Lorkowski, a woman whose high school years promised a bright future.  Being captain of the cheerleading squad and dating the high school football team’s star quarterback, Rose just knew her life would turn out terrific.  But now, in her thirties, Rose is a single mother, cleaning the houses of people she went to high school with and dating a married man.  Where did it all go wrong?

            When Rose discovers that her son has been expelled due to odd behavior, she realizes that she will have to find a better paying job in order to afford the tuition for a school for gifted children.  An offhand suggestion from her boyfriend gives her the idea to begin a bio-hazard removal / crime scene clean-up company called Sunshine Cleaning.  With the help of her hapless salesman father (Alan Arkin) and her slacker sister Norah (Emily Blunt), Rose begins her foray into a career with some rather unexpected highs and lows.

            Things start off rather rough and Rose is unsure of the road ahead, but as they receive more and more clientele, the Lorkowskis begin a journey of self-exploration and healing that they never knew they needed.

            Some people are frightened off by the independent film scene.  These folks often describe the films as being too artsy and too mysterious in their effort to get their message across.  I for one enjoy a good independent film as they offer a fresh look at things, often examining issues that your “average joe” faces on a daily basis.  Sunshine Cleaning deals with several issues, but mainly with the issue of death. 

            Death can come in many ways.  It can come in the form of suicide, homicide or from natural causes.  It can come in the loss of hope and despair.  Both of these types of death have been tackled by Sunshine Cleaning, but the film delves deeper, offering a view of another form of death - the death of dreams.  Death effects us profoundly in ways we can’t imagine and in ways explored perfectly by this film.

            Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin perform brilliantly as a dysfunctional family hurt by a death that took place many years ago that they have never truly healed from.  As their characters face the death of other unknown individuals, they learn a little something about themselves.  Rose learns that the death of her high school dreams doesn’t mean the end of the road.  She no longer has to chase those dreams - she can create new ones.  Norah faces the issues she’s had since childhood and moves past them, becoming freer in body and mind than she ever imagined and finally finding happiness in life.  Alan Arkin finds a way to leave the past behind, embracing its memory but looking forward to the future at the same time.

            The soundtrack of the film is incredibly enjoyable, with each track of music perfectly suiting each visual scene.  Cure for This and Spirit in the Sky are my favorite songs on the soundtrack, the former providing the perfect opening for the film and the latter being very in tune with the subject matter.

            The DVD version of Sunshine Cleaning doesn’t offer much in the way of extras, but what it does offer is rather interesting.  A Fresh Look at a Dirty Business is a featurette in which a real life bio-hazard removal / crime scene clean-up crew describes their business and how well they were represented in the film.  We get a look at the tools of the industry and get to listen to some of the funnier moments of their business and we realize that although Sunshine Cleaning is a fictional tale, the filmmakers were very dedicated to representing the aspects of the crime scene clean-up business perfectly.

            Sunshine Cleaning is an intelligently written film with a terrific cast and a heartwarming, uplifting message.  I so enjoyed the rental that I will be purchasing the movie for my collection.  Good script, excellent cast with terrific chemistry, great music and a beautifully uplifting and inspirational storyline.  What’s not to love?  Check out Sunshine Cleaning at your local rental store.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.


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