Movie of the Week: ‘Sunshine Cleaning’

“Sunshine Cleaning” (2008) – Even though Albuquerque has 310 days of sunshine a year, Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) doesn’t feel like her hometown life is very bright.  Rose dated the high school quarterback back in the day, but today, this single mom is the other woman in a part-time relationship.  She earns a living by cleaning houses, but it isn’t her dream job, and her son’s (Jason Spevack) behavior problems create a financial nightmare.  Oliver (Spevack) needs to attend a private school.  Rose’s dad (Alan Arkin) is a struggling Willie Loman-type, and her younger sister (Emily Blunt) is a professional slacker. 

The Lorkowskis could use some sunnier times, good luck, or some good old-fashion inspiration, so Rose asks Norah to start their own cleaning business, but there’s a catch.  The sisters tidy up various locations – houses, trailers, places of business, etc. – after someone has died, and yes, blood and other fluids are on-site. 

Rose (Amy Adams) and Joe Lorkowski (Alan Arkin)

This eccentric dramedy shines with engaging performances from everyone, and Adams leads this enlightening brigade.  Rose – and every other character – wear their flaws on their sleeves as they struggle through every hour, day, and week.  However, the actors – including Mary Lynn  Rajskub and Clifton Collins Jr. — always garner empathy for their on-screen counterparts, and director Christine Jeffs keeps an upbeat pace over 91 minutes, so we never get mired in cinematic downturns, even though the players cycle through rough times. 

“Sunshine Cleaning” isn’t a light, bubbly comedy, but it’s one that has staying power, as this critic has wiped away the dust and recalled this indie for years.  Fourteen to be exact…and counting.   

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Directed by: Christine Jeffs

Written by: Megan Holly

Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Clifton Collins Jr.

Runtime: 91 minutes

Rated: R

Image credits: Big Beach, Overture Films

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