I would imagine that being a single parent is one of the most difficult jobs someone has to undertake. All of the decisions regarding a child, that normally would be discussed and decided by two people, now fall on the shoulders of one individual. The single parent is responsible when it comes to making choices that are best for their child’s educational development, nutritional needs, who they are allowed to socialize with, disciplinary measures for misbehaving, and a myriad of other decisions. The task of one parent, doing the work of two, must be daunting, especially when the child is at an age where they can’t fend for themselves.
That is the dilemma facing Emmy nominated actress Lauren Ambrose’s character of financially struggling, rough around the edges, single mother, Angela, in the film “About Sunny.” Ambrose gives a masterful performance, completely embodying her character in the movie. The love she has for her daughter, Sunny (Audrey Scott) is evident, and they occasionally share happy moments together, but those times are few, and can change quickly when Sunny doesn’t do exactly as Angela asks her to do (what child does?). The viewer will recognize that Angela’s frustrations toward Sunny are merely projections of her own feelings of low self-esteem. Angela also demonstrates bad behavioral traits like smoking all the time in front of Sunny, as well as making poor judgment calls. For example, even though she owns a car, it has a bad battery, and frequently doesn’t start. Angela opts to take cabs and car services, instead of the bus, which even as a young child, Sunny suggests they do, because it will save a good deal of money.
Written and directed by Bryan Wizemann, the film originally premiered under the name “Think of Me,” on September 9, 2011, at the “Toronto International Film Festival.” The drama has a runtime of one hundred and three minutes. I recently sat down to watch the film on Netflix. In the interest of full disclosure, I did so, only because Ambrose was the star of the movie. I have always thought she had great talent, and I am sorry she hasn’t been given more opportunity to showcase her acting prowess over the years since she was on HBO’s “Six Feet Under.”
The slow moving, emotional film takes place in Las Vegas, and begins with Angela picking up a guy (E.K. Harris) at a strip club. She doesn’t work at the club, but will sometimes stop in to have a drink, because it is close to her apartment. When morning comes, Sunny walks in while the man is getting dressed to leave. At that moment, Angela, who thinks the man she slept with is a professional basketball player, asks him if she could have a hundred dollars to help out with Sunny, which request he refuses.
Later that day, while working at her dead end telemarketing job, Angela is presented with an investment opportunity by her boss, Ted (David Conrad). The price of the initial investment, she is told, is $2,000, but if all goes according to plan, she will be able to triple her money. Jumping at the opportunity, she contacts Sunny’s father, who is never shown on screen, to ask for $2,000 toward back child support payments. She makes a deal with him, that if he wires her the money immediately, she won’t bother him for any more in the future.
Angela works at a call center with Max, Emmy nominated actor, Dylan Baker (The Good Wife). His character is unsavory, and is merely out for his own financial enrichment. In the evenings, he takes portraits at the mall. In addition, to that honest line of work, he also sells people’s names and social security numbers to a man who comes around to see him once a month. He lets Angela know that he makes $400 extra from that unscrupulous, side business, and asks if she wants to get in on it with him; she turns him down. She does, however, take Max up on the offer to take Sunny’s picture for free, because the child’s birthday is the following day. After he is done taking the pictures, Max points out some toys for Sunny to play with in the adjoining room. He then proceeds to tell Angela about his sister, Louise, portrayed by Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito’s Way). Apparently, she and her husband Adam (Chris Boeres), attempted to adopt a child from China, paying the amount of $20,000, but the deal never went through, devastating the couple.
The next day during Sunny’s birthday party, the money her ex sent her for the investment is stolen. Angela is in a state of panic, and contacts the police. She barely has time to deal with that situation, when she needs to head off to her new second job, at a cleaning service. Ironically, the building she is assigned to clean houses the firm she works for during the day; something, her boss discovers, and is none too pleased with. He is doubly upset with Angela because she never came through with the money for the investment; and he subsequently fires her. She knows he will be putting in a call to the cleaning agency, informing them that he doesn’t want her cleaning the offices at night. In one twenty-four period, she has lost both jobs and two-thousand dollars cash. She is right back to square one as far as her financial troubles are concerned, or is she?
The day before, Max attended Sunny’s birthday party along with Louise, and Adam, who are visiting him from Toronto, Canada. Louise, a former teacher, starts helping Sunny with her reading, an area where she has been struggling; something that Angela had been informed about earlier in the film by Sunny’s actual teacher, who thinks she might have dyslexia. Private testing was recommended, but as with most things Angela can’t afford the testing. A short while later, the same amount of money that Louise and Adam were going to pay to adopt the child from China, is offered by Max to Angela for Sunny.
What decision will Angela make given the state of desperation that she is in? Will she take the money? Does she not only give herself a badly needed financial boost, but at the same time relieve herself of the responsibilities of raising Sunny? Does she flat out reject the offer? Can she live with herself if she goes through with the deal, even if she thinks that Louise and Ted, taking Sunny is in the child’s best interest? All of those questions and more will be answered by the film’s conclusion, which, for Ambrose’s performance alone, is worth investing the under two hours it takes to watch it.