Film Review: Lauren Ambrose Shines in Heartbreaking Indie ‘About Sunny’

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CHICAGO – In the annals of bad parenting portrayed on film, the heroine of Bryan Wizemann’s 2011 indie drama is a special case indeed. Though we watch helplessly as she makes countless bad decisions guaranteed to send her young daughter to intensive therapy, we don’t regard her a sinister figure on the order of Monique’s monstrous matriarch in “Precious.” Our gaze is one of empathy. Oscarman rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

That’s because Wizemann’s film is remarkably observant in its exploration of the factors that led this single mother, Angela, to commit such desperate acts. She embodies the anxiety and rage of a working class that feels utterly abandoned by its own country. It’s difficult to be a nurturing parent when you’re living from paycheck to paycheck while struggling to keep your head above water in a society consistently at odds with your needs. Yet instead of transforming the tale into a political polemic, Wizemann allows the outrage to emerge organically from the dire situations that his tragic duo find themselves trapped within.

StarRead Matt Fagerholm’s full review of “About Sunny” in our reviews section.

Of course, a picture this sad and uncompromising with prove to be a tough sit for many viewers, and there are times when Angela’s misguided behavior verges on infuriating. Yet what keeps the viewer anchored throughout is the powerhouse performance by Lauren Ambrose (of “Six Feet Under” fame) as Angela. It’s difficult to think of another actress who could’ve pulled off this role so well. She earns our sympathy without softening any of her character’s rough edges. In many ways, she’s no less unsuitable for motherhood than Tilda Swinton’s wayward criminal in “Julia.” It’s clear from the get-go that Angela’s pint-sized daughter, Sunny (Audrey P. Scott), is the more clear-headed, perceptive and (let’s face it) adult of the two. She doesn’t dispel precocious wisdom like some hideous Hollywood caricature, but she is able to maintain her cool in crises that nearly cause her mother’s sanity to cave in. Whereas Angela’s frenzied mind is often clouded with irrationality, Sunny can often see straight to the heart of things. During the many tirades in which Angela projects her own self-loathing onto her daughter, Sunny maintains a stiff upper lip despite her agony. One gets the idea that Sunny will somehow manage to survive her circumstances and grow into the sort of woman Angela could never become.

‘About Sunny’ stars Lauren Ambrose, Audrey P. Scott, Dylan Baker and Penelope Ann Miller. It was written and directed by Bryan Wizemann. It was released May 24th at Facets. It is not rated.

StarContinue reading for Matt Fagerholm’s full “About Sunny” review.

Lauren Ambrose stars in Bryan Wizemann’s About Sunny.
Lauren Ambrose stars in Bryan Wizemann’s About Sunny.
Photo credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

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