SUNNY IN THE DARK – A Review by John Strange

SUNNY IN THE DARK
 
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
 
 
Privacy in our world is oft-times taken for granted.  When we lock our doors we feel we are secure in our own small part of the universe.  What happens when your small space and someone else’s small space overlap?
 
Jonah Bock (Jay Huguley) is a family counseling therapist.  He helps families deal with all manner of issues.  In his personal life he, too, is dealing with issues.  He is reclusive, preferring to read books than go out in the evenings.  He has an ex, Darlene (Candice Michele Barley), with whom he shares custody their dog, Stevie.  He doesn’t seem to really be able to deal with his personal problems as well as he expects his clients to deal with theirs.
 
The opportunity to move into an exclusive apartment building comes available.  The restrictions on the space include no pets but he really wants one of these lofts.  He decides to take the deal and signs the lease despite the no animal clause.
 
He moves in and settles down into a routine that gives him some peace; quiet meals for one and a good book before bed.  No noisy neighbors, just peace and quiet. 
 
Sunny (Hannah Ward) is a homeless girl who has somehow gotten into the building.  She is living in the crawlspace about Jonah’s loft with her pet rat.  She seems to be a nice young lady who has been traumatized by something ad enough to drive her to hide from the world.
 
When Jonah moves into his new loft, Sunny begins to watch him through cracks in the ceiling.  She has a diary in which she details his every move (and her feelings about them).  As the days progress, she begins to sneak down into the apartment during the day while its legal occupant is at work. 
 
Sunny is unable to be perfectly quiet when Jonah is home.  He complains to building management about the noise.  Building management calls for an exterminator.  Jeremy, the exterminator (Adam Dietrich), is a bit off-beat but he knows his business.  He sets traps around the loft and plans to return in a few days. One of the traps is in the crawlspace with Sunny and her pet.  Sunny sets the trap in  a lunchbox to protect her small friend from the killer device.
 
She manages to stay hidden from Jonah but daily she is down in the apartment.  She eats small amounts, and takes a small of peanut butter daily to feed her pet.  Her method of sneaking milk is reminiscent of the way kids sneak their parent’s liquor. 
 
She brushes her teeth with his toothbrush, washes her clothes (she only has one outfit so she wears his pajamas during this time) and showers.  We are made privy to the scars on her back when she is shown drying the tub after one of those showers.  Thanks to her copious notes she knows his daily schedule so she can enjoy her time exploring Jonah’s home. 
 
As time goes by, Sunny begins to have fantasies of being a part of Jonah’s life.  She sets the table for two and eats her small amounts while pretending to have conversations with him.  Jonah knows nothing of this.  But only because Sunny is very careful about leaving traces.
 
Then the trap snaps on her thumb while giving her pet access to the peanut butter on the device.  Jonah calls the manager to tell him the trap was sprung.  Sunny replaces the peanut butter but Jeremy, our erstwhile exterminator, is not fooled.  The new paste does not smell like what he placed on the trap.  Even though there does not appear to be any missing, he is now convinced that there IS a rat.  And he is going to catch it!
 
He replaces the peanut butter with a special concoction that includes ground glass and arsenic.  After replacing the trap in the crawlspace, he looks around.  He almost finds Sunny who is hiding under some blankets.
 
While all of this has been going on, Jonah has begun having end of day discussions with the person “up there”.  You can’t be sure if he is talking to God or the person he is thinks lives above him.  Sunny listens to all of the dialogues. 
 
Disaster strikes for Sunny.  Her beloved rat has gotten into the lunchbox where the trap was stored.  He is dead.  The next day she tries to flush this large rat down the toilet with the expected results.  She grabs Jonah’s favorite knife to force him on down.  Then she has to clean up the mess.
 
Disaster strikes at Jonah when his ex calls and needs him to watch Stevie for two weeks.  He tells her that his new lease won’t allow it.  He suggests a kennel.  She reminds him that there is a “no kennels” clause in the custody agreement.  She admits she is getting married to her boyfriend, Ramone (Johnny Walter).  Final result is they smuggle the dog into the building. 
 
Jonah and Stevie watch PBS in the evenings and run laps around the coffee table for exercise in the mornings.  Sunny talks for the first time in the film as she tells Stevie who eats where.  The two even nap on the sofa together.
 
Darlene comes back after only one week to get Stevie.  The wedding was called off.  She admits that Jonah was somewhat at fault.  Jonah wants to talk about it but she does not.  She takes Stevie and leaves.
 
Sunny is getting braver.  She even sneaks into Jonah’s bed one night but is gone before he wakes up the next morning.
 
Maysie (Verity Branco), an acquaintance from the building calls Jonah and invites him to one of those places where they simulate skydiving using a huge fan.  They have a great time.  After he walks her to her door Maysie catches him while he is waiting for the elevator to give him his souvenir from their day.  Bemused, Jonah steps through the elevator doors and plummets to the bottom of the shaft.  The elevator wasn’t there and he didn’t notice!
 
Dorothy (Lee Meriwether), Jonah’s mother, brings the injured Jonah home from the hospital.  She offers to stay but Jonah assures her that his friend Maysie will help if he needs it.  Maysie comes over bearing wine and flowers.  She tells him he should sue the building.  While Jonah is in his room making himself more presentable, there is a knock on his door.  When he comes out, Maysie is kissing a strange man.  She introduces him as her old friend, Claude (Matthew Thomas), who just flew into town from New York.  She wants Claude to spend the evening with them!  Claude and Maysie leave hand-in-hand at the end of the night.  Maysie promises to call him in a week.
 
Ramone (the ex’s ex) breaks into Jonah’s place.  Sunny reveals herself when she jumps on the assailant to protect Jonah!  This gives Jonah a chance to get his crutch and knock Ramone out.  Sadly, it is too late for Sunny to run away. 
 
Police are called and both Sunny and Ramone are taken away.  The police send Sunny’s diary to Jonah.  Dorothy reads it and tells him he should read it, too.
 
Ramone is going to prison.  The D.A. asks, since she saved his life, if…  Jonah interrupts to insist that he wants to press charges.  The attorney asks if it is all right to send her to a hospital but Jonah insists she be treated in jail.  When asked why, he insists it is because she was living in his ceiling.  He is adamant about it.  You can tell that it really had him freaked out.
 
While Jonah is home eating a sedate meal, Sunny’s treatment at eh jail/hospital is not gentle.
 
Finally comes the day that Jonah reads the diary.  He pours a glass of wines, opens the book and reads Sunny’s commentary on his life (and hers).  Following this reading, he trashes both his toothbrush and his favorite knife.  Her words from the diary accompany his exploration of her old haunt in the crawlspace.  Her words make him rethink a lot of things.
 
He takes her the green figurine she loved from his collection.  He talks to her in her cell in her jail hospital.  He also gives her a metal lunchbox with her diary and some other things in it.  He says he just wants to say thank you, for everything.  He then leaves.  She opens the lunchbox to see what is there.
 
He moves out of the loft.  He returns to see Sunny but she has escaped.  She left the green knight figurine in her bed.
 
This is the type of film that keeps me watching independent films.  The writers have given us some interesting characters that could be our neighbors.  Hannah’s portrayal of Sunny is spot on.  She gives us the innocent young girl who just wants to be loved but is afraid of being hurt.
 
This is a film you should take the time to watch.  It is currently available on Vimeo OnDemand (https://vimeo.com/ondemand/sunnyinthedark) and iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/sunny-in-the-dark/id1082946288).
 
 
Directed by: Courtney Ware
 
Cast: Jay Huguley, Hannah Ward, Heather Bloom, Kevin Dean, Adam Dietrich, Desiree Fultz, Susana Gibb, Lee Meriwether
 
MPAA Rating: NR
 
Selig Rating: Full Price
 
Runtime: 91 Min.
 
 
 
The Selig Rating Scale:
 
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!
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