Sunshine and Flame: Bright pairs on the big screen

sunshine_cleaningHave you ever noticed that many great movies tell the story of partnerships? Think about it—Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca or Vincent and Jules in Pulp Fiction; Thelma and Louise is even named after a partnership! And consider films that came out last month: New Moon’s romance between Edward and Bella; Sherlock Holmes and Watson; the unlikely partnership between Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar in Invictus. Partnerships make for great cinema, whether it’s because the characters create an amazing tension, whether one acts as a foil for the other, or whether they represent a great romance. So, for this edition of Rave Reviews we’re looking at two unsung films that have at their heart a partnership central to their stories.

Rose and Norah Lorkowski (Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) are sisters in the family drama, Sunshine Cleaning. Rose, a former high-school cheerleading captain turned maid, has been living her life on the brink. With a young son to support, a washed out sister and a scheming father always in hot water, she’s barely making ends meet. Her affair with a married cop is a dead end until he throws some cleaning work her way—cleaning up after crime scenes that is. Rose recruits Norah to help her start Sunshine Cleaning, a crime scene clean-up business that promises good money, a steady job and a healthy dose of self-respect. When an accident threatens to destroy both her business and her family, Rose and the rest of the Lorkowskis pull together in a heart-warming conclusion. Despite not gaining a lot of good press, Sunshine Cleaning is funny and endearing. There are some tough, challenging scenes that are gut-wrenching yet strangely cathartic. A great tonic after the excesses of the holidays, Sunshine Cleaning should be on your New Year movies list.

I’ve been avoiding art house films for a while. I made an exception, though, for the well-reviewed Danish WWII film Flame and Citron. The film is based on the true story of two Danish resistance assassins during the Nazi occupation of Denmark. The acting by European stars Thure Lindhardt (Into the Wild) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) is impeccable and makes for a fast-paced, bracing thriller. “The Flame” and “The Lemon” as the two men were known were infamous, killing dozens of Nazi officers and Danish traitors. The film portrays their zeal to protect their homeland, governed by a greedy, self-interested Danish businessman. Be advised: Flame and Citron is a daunting WWII drama that will punch you in the sweet spot.

Happy New Year to all! I hope that the New Year brings you many great partnerships, whether they are in your own life or merely on the big screen.

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