Sunshine Cleaning (15)

3.00

Despite its title, Sunshine Cleaning rumbles with heavy storm clouds.

It's about two kinds of mess – the emotional fall-out that comes with being part of a family, and the literal fall-out from a crime scene (blood, biohazardous stuff) that someone has to clean up. It's a dirty job, and in small-town New Mexico former cheerleader Rose (Amy Adams) finds herself doing it. She needs the money – and what with a tricky seven-year-old son to look after, a cranky widower father (Alan Arkin) who loses money on get-rich-quick schemes, and a married cop (Steve Zahn) who's seeing her on the sly, she needs reserves of sunny patience, too. It doesn't help that her partner in grime – Sunshine Cleaning is the hopeful name they slap on the business – is her younger sister Norah (Emily Blunt), an underachiever who hides her disappointments beneath a brittle layer of sass.

Crime scene clean-up is a "growth industry" – or did they say gross industry? – but it may just be that the sisters are dealing with deeper psychological damage. The mournful blood-spattered scenes they encounter remind them of their own mother's death, which they hardly speak of. The restraint of Megan Holley's screenplay is admirable, particularly in a party scene where Rose meets up with her smugly married schoolfriends and feels obliged to explain how clean-up work requires more than just industrial fluids. There are people involved, too. "They've lost somebody, and we help. In some small way, we help..." It's a speech beautifully delivered by Adams, who brings out the decency in Rose even more winningly than she did with her role in Junebug. Blunt is a match for her as Norah, less sympathetic but as achingly human, the pain of being a screw-up perceptible in her snarky tone and her face's twitchy contours. Their truth-telling scene in a restaurant loo is terrific.

The New Zealand-born director Christine Jeffs does good work, too (as she did in her debut, Rain), managing a nifty balance between tragedy and farce. A high-spirited desperation is its keynote. The producers are the same who gave us Little Miss Sunshine, which would explain the familial dysfunction and the inclusion of Arkin as the dad. Does he get tired of playing this part? I hope not, because he does it better than just about anyone else. It's not on a par with Little Miss: there's some whimsical-tragical stuff about talking to the dead via CB radio, and the producers might want to think beyond using "Sunshine" in a title again. But I would have been sorry to miss this.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before