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November 13, 2009

SDFF 2009- Son of the Sunshine

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Ryan Ward - 2009
Heart Shaped Movies

There is one scene in Son of the Sunshine that works for me. Sonny, recently out following surgery to cure his Tourette's Syndrome, goes out on an impromptu date with Arielle. We see the couple exiting the theater, with Arielle yelling about how phony the movie is, and how real love is not as it is portrayed in the movie the couple has just walked out on. Sonny weakly admits that he kind of liked the film in question, but is quickly shouted down by Arielle, who then demands her money back. The guy in the box office responds to Arielle with a casual, "Uh . . . eat me", before going back to ignoring the world outside his booth. It's a scene that rings true for me after being with someone who would more often than not, choose the movies we would see together, and then frequently burst into anger at the end during the end credits about what a lousy movie we had just seen.

There is also some humor when we first see Sonny riding in a Toronto subway, shouting "Fuck you" followed by a more circumspect "Sorry" to everyone he sees. And it's too bad that Ryan Ward, as co-writer, director and star, could not or would not leaven his tale with a few more laughs. The story about a young man struggling with Tourette's Syndrome, attempting to find his way in the world without the one thing that made him both vulnerable but also served as a sort of shield against the world, seems caught up in showing characters who are trapped in their own misery. Sonny's mother is a drug addict, Arielle is an alcoholic, and the rest of the characters live hopeless or limited lives. It's not that a film about people living in the margins can't be interesting, but that Ward gives little reason why anyone should really care about these people who exist in the outskirts of Toronto.

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I am not sure if a reference to Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie was intentional, but Arielle has a collection of glass unicorns and such. The collection was inherited from her mother, whom we are informed had lived a hard life, and was waiting for her own "knight" to come rescue her. Arielle's mother was never rescued, and Arielle attempts to face life with a hard shell, or at least the appearance of hardness. Unlike Williams' Amanda, Arielle is not physically crippled, although the amateur psychologist will have more to say about Arielle's drinking as a form of crutch. Ryan Ward has attempted to make a film involving a certain amount of symbolism in regards to Sonny as a sort of saint. It is Arielle, emotionally confused, too attractive to be plain but not quite pretty, with the streak of blue in her blonde hair, that is more rooted in the grimy reality that Ward has filmed.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 13, 2009 12:51 AM