Cast: Barry Ward, Liam Carney, Maureen Beattie
Director: Claire Dix
Release Date: June 16, 2023
Set in inner city Dublin, Leon (Barry Ward), a recovering drug addict, discovers his terminally-ill best friend and sponsor, Iver (Liam Carney), plans to self-euthanise; Leon won’t let him go without a fight. He Forces Iver to agree to one last day in Dublin, hoping to convince him to live.
Sunlight is Claire Dix’s (Take Me Swimming, Broken Song) directorial debut feature film supported by securing funding from the POV scheme with Screen Ireland, which aims to empower and support female creative talent. The screenplay comes from Writer Ailbhe Keogan (Joyride, Take Me Swimming, Bad Sisters), in which Dix stayed true to the script throughout the production process. This Low Budget Independent film goes beyond the realm of creativity despite the restraints of finance, which is visually appealing. Cinematographer Narayan Van Maele captures Dublin so beautifully that it admires the city’s charm like a love letter to the capital. Some scenes use light and reflection to paint a canvas of the true beauty of this story’s setting. Leon (Ward) performs well, shows good character traits, and innovatively expresses his love and passion for music. I sometimes craved to learn more about his back story and the road that brought him to his addiction. The movie briefly touches on the general scope and the significant bits we need to understand in building a likeness towards him, but the possible use of flashbacks would have fleshed him out a lot more. Furthermore, the movie is heavily driven by dialogue and at times, visual cues would have helped with strongly developing and grasping more of the narrative.
But the connection sparks whenever Leon and Iver (Liam Carney) are on screen together; there is a mixture of emotion and empathy between the two characters, with a dollop of silliness thrown in for good measure. Iver (Carney) gives a magnificent performance and honest portrayal of someone battling a terminal illness. His character’s expressions and physicality reminded me of Daniel Day-Lewis’s acting in My Left Foot (1989).
There is a strong representation of spirituality and the existence of higher power among the characters in this movie in the form of Norse gods. Believing in something that will heal a person through a drug recovery programme is hopeful and inspiring. But it didn’t work for me; I found it distracting and nonsensical, and it, at times, took away the simplicity and beauty of the heartwarming story. Towards the end of this movie, a scene on a lake questions the legality of Leon’s actions and tears down the realistic traits of this movie; it eliminates the authentic nature associated with it. But, I left the press screening with many positive feelings about the look and themes in this movie. The sensitive issue of euthanasia is highlighted respectfully and beautifully and captures the angle of empathy towards the person suffering. It uses humour and emotion between the two characters that shine brightly on the screen, leaving you with a pain in your stomach from laughing and teary-eyed as you reach for your tissues simultaneously. Sunlight celebrates life and friendship with the stunning picturesque scenery of Dublin as its backdrop.
Overall: 6.5 / 10