SUNNY IN THE DARK is a study in methodical, deliberate filmmaking. Each shot seems carefully planned and executed and each bit of pacing of the movie examined and allowed to play out, seeming almost like you’re watching a documentary rather than a film. At times it can almost be a detriment to the film and can easily be dismissed as boring or plodding, but there is a warmness and actual craft to how director Courtney Ware executes her debut feature.
The set up for SUNNY IN THE DARK would make as good a horror movie plot as it does a drama. There is a reclusive gentleman living on his own in a loft, but he is far from alone. Above him in the crawlspace lives a troubled woman who watches his every move and invades his life on a daily basis without him ever knowing. Sound ominous right? Not in this film. Ware does a fantastic, if not slow, job of setting up the daily routines, trials, and neurosis of both her main characters. Jonah (Jay Huguley) is a therapist who prefers a quiet and solitary life. A portion of the plot is given to the concept that people are afraid of others getting to know them, and that certainly seems to be the case when it comes to Jonah’s character. Sunny is the counterpoint, and at the same time, compliment to that thesis. She lives alone and out of sight, allowed to get to know Jonah but afraid to be discovered. It’s made apparent during the first half hour or so of the film that Sunny (Hannah Ward) has lived a troubled live, and there are signs of a violent past in the scars revealed on her body.
At about the hour mark the film starts to pick up the pace a bit. Sunny starts to come out from her crawlspace more and more, invading Jonah’s personal space and getting closer to him at every turn. It can be argued that she wants to be discovered, and from her time watching Jonah she may have fallen for him a bit. Sunny finally makes her presence known to Jonah only during the last twenty minutes of the film, when she rescues him from a would-be assaulter names Ramone (Johnny Walter), a lover of Jonah’s ex-wife that holds a grudge against him.
Once discovered Sunny is placed in a prison treatment facility, and Jonah is left alone again, with a journal Sunny left behind. It’s through this journal that Jonah finally gets to know about Sunny, and about himself through her eyes. Jonah’s walls start to come down as he begins to examine the loneliness in his life, and without even knowing it, the hole that Sunny’s presence in his apartment, filled.
The cinematography in SUNNY IN THE DARK is pretty outstanding. Not because there is any sort of specific camera trickery at play, but just how deliberate the shots are. The cinematographer (Jake Wilganowski) seems perfectly at home allowing the camera to just settle on a particular shot, or softly crane over portions of Jonah’s loft apartment, allowing the viewer to take in the whole space, and not just cutting quickly for pacing’s sake. The music is occasionally incidental, and entirely classical. It serves to really highlight Jonah’s personality, especially in the scenes that take place in his loft. It adds to the starkness of his lonely existence. But I feel that there should have been more of a counter to that with Sunny’s music, or the music in scenes outside of the apartment.
I wish that more time had been devoted to Sunny’s life and backstory, and I had hoped that there would have been some resolution to her and Jonah’s story, but unfortunately the directer seemed to keep that a secret for herself. In the end this wasn’t really so much a story of two lonely people finding each other, but of one man finding himself, and even that is left a bit tenuous. The only real let down of the story is the ending, and I’m not quite sure if that is the director’s fault for leaving it the way she did, or my fault for expecting and wanting more of these two characters interacting (or not interacting, as is the case in much of the movie).
Sunny In The Dark Review
A reclusive family therapist craving the solitude of an exclusive downtown loft doesn't realize that he's not the only person living in the same space.