Sundance: Sunshine Cleaning, Incendiary, Downloading Nancy

Our final full day arrives at last! After days of enjoying the snow already on the ground, Mother Nature decided to give us a taste of the fresh stuff. There was a foot of snow, at the least, on our tiny car this morning. Which meant Josh’s plans to head out early to get the hectic day started did not pan out. I had taken the opportunity to sleep in late, but awoke to the sounds of knocking and smell of breakfast burrito.

The trip in to town was far more treacherous in appearance than in actuality. Some slips and slides never hurt anyone. Am I right? I’m not quite sure what lesson Park City wanted to teach me today. Most likely that no matter when you think you have some free time, prepare for it to be snatched away. During Sundance the times you should dread most are the three-hour blocks of nothingness. And don’t come to me with thoughts of, “I’ll finish my review from earlier.” You’ll be lucky to get a sentence out before a press conference starts next to you, or a major screening you weren’t covering is suddenly thrust on your plate.

Today I got to continue with the interviews, talking with the gals behind the camera of Sunshine Cleaning. I also finally got a chance to view the movie I’ve been hearing so much about, a letter to Osama Bin Laden and a movie where Nancy gets Downloaded. Just read below to understand.

Sunshine Cleaning

Going into Sunshine Cleaning I had high expectations. With the successful, and incredible, Little Miss Sunshine coming from the same producers many thought this could be the little dark comedy to break through at Sundance. It probably is, and the experience overall is good. But it’s not good enough to outshine a little girl’s dream to enter a beauty pageant.

Rose (Amy Adams) is raising her son Oscar (Jason Spevack) on her own while cleaning houses. The two are as opposite as can be, with young Oscar being a weirdo. Not caring what people think of him, just exploring his world in the uniquely inquisitive way children have. Meanwhile Rose is desperately trying to fit in with the status quo. In high school she was head cheerleader and girlfriend of the quarterback. Those “skills” are not marketable in the world of employment.

Oscar takes it upon himself to lick a teacher’s leg, and after being told to put her son on drugs Rose decides to place him in private school. When did licking a leg become a sign that a kid needs to take drugs? When Rose’s lover, the married cop Mac (Steve Zahn), informs her of the cash crime scene cleaners pull down she jumps at what may be the only chance to help her boy out. She pulls her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) into the scheme, and the two begin to fumble their way in the business.

Sunshine Cleaning is not about the biohazard waste removal business. The job didn’t matter much to what was going on. The movie is also far less a comedy than one would assume, given the cast and content. A heavier emphasis on drama may put some people off, but in the end the story is simple and sweet. Both Amy Adams and Emily Blunt have captivating moments throughout the film, but each has shined just a little brighter elsewhere. Alan Arkin, as the gung-ho dad with schemes galore, is pitch perfect. Sunshine Cleaning is a refreshing departure from the mediocre fare I saw at this year’s festival.


Incendiary is based on a novel that released two days before the London bombings, so any thought that the story is cashing in on those tragedies is mistaken. Sharon Maguire takes a clean departure from her previous work, Bridget Jones’s Diary, to take on a story of loss and explosions. Incendiary is a letter to Osama Bin Laden, letting him know that bombing us will only make us stronger.

The Young Mother (Michelle Williams) is getting through the day-to-day grind of life, but she loves her son dearly. When she spends an evening with journalist Jasper Black (Ewan McGregor) the main character doesn’t want to continue the tryst. Of course, we all know she does. It’s Ewan McGregor, even I would cheat on my husband and child for him. While her son and husband head off to a soccer game, the Young Mother brings Jasper into her flat. During a particularly steamy sex scene everything is destroyed as a bomb in the stadium goes off. It kills many people, including her family.

The rest of the film follows the young mother as she struggles with her grief. She’s attracted to her husband’s former colleague, while she pushes Jasper away because he’s a reminder of the tragic day. Investigation into the bombing reveals some the real reason the bombs went off and destroyed her family; the truth drives her mad. Incendiary is a reaction to the world we now live in, where bombs are a constant threat. People in the world are vividly aware that the next big disaster is only a button press away. Rather than depress the audience, Incendiary aims to motivate. Telling us that no matter how badly we are beaten, we can never be broken. Unfortunately the ending falls flat, becoming too cheesy to truly inspire.

Downloading Nancy

It always seems like people love to talk about controversial films as if that very fact makes them good. A film that takes chances by exploring explicit themes is not a well-made piece of art because it’s provocative. You have to do something interesting with it. Downloading Nancy promised greatness, and instead delivers false intensity in the form of a low-grade snuff film. It was like the film was raping my face.

Mario Bello turns in an intense performance as Nancy, our highly troubled lead. After fifteen years of unhappy marriage she has finally found a man online willing to give her the release she desires. So, she leaves a note saying she’s off visiting friends. The story follows Nancy as she speaks with her therapist about the past, where her uncle abused her so bad she is no incapable of having children. Albert (Rufus Sewell), Nancy’s husband, is left home trying to figure out what has happened. As each day passes he becomes more desperate.

Downloading Nancy is indeed an intense film, and hard to watch. Director Johan Renck holds little back as he explores the twisted world that Nancy inhabits. A world where a woman has been so abused in life that she couldn’t accept love. She seeks something to complete her, and finds it in a man she met on the internet. It’s too bad that rather than be intrigued with the power of her struggle, I was far more distracted by the bodily fluids on display.

Steve West

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.