There's a tremendously good spirit that radiates throughout co-writer/director Kevin Resnick's slightly quirky rom-com Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, an unusually sunny piece of cinema starring Resnick as Ben, a former novelist whose daily life is spent in creative purgatory writing instructions for egg-timers, blenders and other assorted household products.
Yeah, think about it. Somebody has to write that stuff.
Back at home, Ben serves as mother and father to 7-year-old Lilly (Dariana Alvarez), whose love of his bedtime stories doesn't stop her increasingly fem-centric list of major life questions for which Ben has no real answers. The presence of Ben's father (Robb Hutter), a flirtatious older man with a penchant for neighborhood pick-ups doesn't help matters much.
Ben's only real escape seems to be his daily jaunts to a local coffeeshop where he tries to tap into the creative spirit he once knew while silently eyeing the mysterious bright and cheery Sunshine (Sarah Navratil), whose charisma is obvious yet whose entire persona seems the polar opposite of the doldrumish Ben.
Then, one day, Ben returns home from another boring day at work and another endless day of harassment from his boss (Robert L. Greene), to find Sunshine preparing dinner in his kitchen.
Ben's life is about to change.
Winner of Best Student Feature Film at the Manhattan Film Festival and Best Student Film at the Grand Rapids Film Festival, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine is the kind of film that leaves you smiling from beginning to end with its relentless sentimentality grounded in honest yet unusual characters who seem like the kind of characters we all encounter throughout the course of our day.
As practically polar opposites, we shouldn't really believe in the spark that gets ignited between Ben and Sunshine.
But we do.
This is largely owing to a script from Resnick and Rebecca Norris that finds truth in its absurdity and heart within its hilarity, a unique combination of ingredients that is often strived for yet seldom ever achieved. It is achieved in abundance here.
If I were to compare Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine to anything else out there, it would likely be the former television series Dharma & Greg, a series that centered around a free-spirited yoga instructor and a Harvard-educated attorney.
While Ben certainly doesn't qualify as a Harvard-educated attorney, he is an immensely good and talented human being who has forgotten that he's an immensely good and talented human being. When Sunshine, an artist and yoga instructor, enters his life it becomes abundantly clear that this unexpected, unlikely spark is really going to ignite if Ben can get out of his own way long enough to let it happen.
Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine is filled with moments that allow you to meditate, slow and dry witty humor that lingers on the screen, at times a tad too long, yet in a way that makes you realize these words have meaning far beyond the jokes that we're hearing. Conversations between Ben and a constantly tokin' co-worker are laugh out loud funny yet also spew forth life and relationship insights with equal precision.
Resnick is mostly a veteran of short films, with the exception of an uncredited appearance in the Tom Hanks starrer Captain Phillips, though he has a face that makes you scream aloud "I know that guy."
You don't. Okay, you probably don't. But you should. You probably will.
The same is true for Sarah Navratil, though you may recognize her from Stargate Origins or other indie productions, who manages to turn a quirky, seemingly unbelievable character into the kind of person you want in your life. Navratil's performance is warm and funny, honest and filled with such gentle depth that you can't help but fall in love with her.
Among the supporting players, there really isn't a weak link here - an extreme rarity for indie cinema. Young Dariana Alvarez is a gem as Lilly, while Robb Hutter takes what could have easily been a one-note role and brings life to it in creative and honest ways. Robert L. Greene, as Mr. Pickleberry, has some seriously messed up chi.
D.P. Luke Snailham lenses the film with clarity and a lingering sort of precision that gives the characters room to breathe, while Scott Radway's original music runs the gamut from quietly warm and sentimental to inspired and energized.
Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine is the kind of film that leaves you smiling as you watch the closing credits roll, a beautifully designed and acted film that looks good and feels good and earns an ending that makes sense and avoids surprises. Currently available on DVD and via streaming outlets, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine is a perfect film to watch on that next rainy day you're stuck inside and wanting something to lift your spirits.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic