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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although the movie ultimately has a hopeful message and reinforces the importance of family ties, it's not exactly straightforward. Characters constantly disappoint each other, and there are many grim themes related to death and loss.
Positive Role Models
Despite many flaws, the family members are close, and they see each other through both ups and downs. But back to those flaws: A single woman continually hooks up with a married man, and another woman fails to honor a work commitment, leaving her sister/business partner to deal with a major accident. A grandfather means well but takes a long time to finally get his act together. Also, a child appears to be having a hard time adjusting to school, and his teachers seem quite harsh.
Violence & Scariness
Only one scene actually depicts active violence -- a man commits suicide in public by shooting himself with a rifle in the first 15 minutes of the movie. But since the film is about a service for cleaning crime scenes, biohazards, etc., viewers see lots of the after effects of violence, including blood on mattresses, chairs, and other places; bits of brain and other flesh on the floor; and a severed finger. Another scene shows children discovering a woman who's slit her wrists. There are also a few loud fights.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman is shown trysting with a married man many times; she's usually wearing nothing but her underwear, and they kiss and grope each other. A man is shown grinding on a woman while she lies there, uninterested; he's shirtless, and she is, for the most part, clothed. A woman flirts with another by pretending to bite a necklace she's wearing.
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A grown-up explains the meaning of the word "bastard" to a child and (affectionately) calls him that. Other words include several uses of "s--t" and "f--k," as well as "bulls--t," "dumbass," damn," "goddamn," and "oh my God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A woman smokes pot. Some casual drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this dramedy, in addition to taking on mature themes like suicide and infidelity, is quite gory. The many post-death scenes include disturbing shots of things like pools of blood on ceilings, floors, and walls; human flesh awaiting clean up; and a brief flash of a suicide victim awaiting discovery. There's also lots of talk about death, and the fact that the adult characters are unable to find direction till the end clearly affects the one child in their midst. All of that said, the movie does have a lot of heart and, in the end, a hopeful message. But to get to the uplift, viewers have to endure a pretty grueling journey. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Quirky and affecting, SUNSHINE CLEANING is a lovely dramedy bolstered by extraordinary performances. As she's done with previous roles as a nun and a real-life Disney princess, Adams brings loads of warmth and empathy to her role. And in Blunt -- who has the rare gift of being able to marry humor and sorry with ease -- she has a formidable partner-in-crime. Rounding out the main cast in a role that harkens back to Little Miss Sunshine (the two movies have the same producers), Arkin cements his place in celluloid history as the patron saint of flawed-but-loving grandfathers. They're damaged, but you feel for them nonetheless.
But here's the rub (or should we say scrub?): Sunshine Cleaning feels painstakingly put together and a bit contrived. Though director Christine Jeffs doesn't reveal the psychological scars branded on the family's psyche until almost the end, she hints at them a little too heavily (the slo-mo flashbacks, the gray visual palette, the mishaps -- and there are many!). And must everyone be so idiosyncratic? Even the former high school classmates Rose runs into at a baby shower seem larded with spite. Still, as blemishes go, these are hardly deal breakers. The film's loudly beating heart and strong performances will wash the doubts away.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.