Sunday's Illness

Movie review by
Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Sunday's Illness Movie Poster Image
Slow-paced Spanish drama has drinking, mature themes.
  • NR
  • 2018
  • 113 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

No positive messages. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

No positive role models. 

Violence

 A character drowns her terminally ill adult daughter, holding her in a lake until she dies. During an argument, the daughter throws a teacup at her mother's head, striking her forehead and drawing blood. 

Sex

Brief female nudity, breasts, nonsexual. 

Language

Infrequent profanity: "s--t," "damn." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman gets extremely drunk at an outdoor festival. She drinks from a flask, later stumbling and falling all over an equally drunk man. The woman's mother takes her home as she stumbles and falls. Later she vomits in the toilet while her mother holds her by the hair. The next day, she's hung over. Regular cigarette smoking. Woman talks of using heroin when she was a teenager. Wine drinking at a dinner party. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sunday's Illness is a 2018 Spanish film in which a wealthy philanthropist woman agrees to spend 10 days with the daughter she left behind over 30 years ago. The movie is in Spanish and French with English subtitles. In the film's climactic scene, the mother helps to drown her terminally ill daughter, at the daughter's behest. At an outdoor festival, the daughter drinks to excess and becomes so drunk she can hardly stand up and needs to be taken home by her mother. At home, the daughter vomits in the toilet. There's cigarette smoking, and the daughter talks of being a heroin user when she was a teenager. The film shows a brief glimpse of female breasts, and language includes "s--t" and "damn."

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What's the story?

In SUNDAY'S ILLNESS, Anabel (Susi Sanchez) is a wealthy philanthropist. While hosting an exclusive dinner party for charity, she recognizes one of the servers as Chiara (Barbara Lennie), the daughter Anabel abandoned decades before, when Chiara was 8. After meeting with Anabel and her lawyers, Chiara reveals her request: She wants Chiara and Anabel to spend 10 days together. After the 10 days, Chiara will legally renounce all relations. Anabel agrees to these terms and goes to the chalet on the border of France and Spain where Chiara lives, and where Anabel once lived before she left her daughter and husband. During the 10 days, Chiara makes no other demands but expresses passive hostility to Anabel in a variety of ways. But as the days and nights pass, the real reason Chiara has requested to see her mother is revealed, and the two must find a way to reconcile. 

Is it any good?

The overall enjoyment of this drama is inevitably dependent on whether or not one likes slower-paced movies. Because, to put it into pretentious film school terms, Sunday's Illness makes Ingmar Bergman movies look like Michael Bay movies. There are times when this pacing serves the movie well. The estranged relationship between a mother and daughter has plenty of space to develop before the audience, and the actors have all the time they need to dig deep. But at other times, the pace is downright maddening. A simple short walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water feels like an eternity, overdone and unnecessary. 

And yet, there are many beautiful images throughout the movie, the acting is unquestionably topnotch, and as the story unfolds, what emerges is a touching meditation on abandonment and reconciliation. It isn't for everybody, but for those in search of an alternative to the constant screaming, jolting, and overstimulation of the typical formulaic Hollywood movie, Sunday's Illness is a worthy choice. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about pacing in movies. What are the pros and cons of movies with slower scenes? Fast-paced scenes? 

  • How is drinking shown in Sunday's Illness? Is it glamorized, or are the consequences of overindulgence shown?

  • How does the movie show the changing relationship between the mother and daughter? 

Movie details

For kids who love dramas

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