“Sunshine Cleaning” is about a pair of sisters who come to learn, after a long era moping around the same sad rut, that the best revenge against a cruel world is to live as well as one can.
Amy Adams stars as Rose Lorkowski, one of those unfortunate people who peaked in high school and has spent most of her life since trying to retain the tattered remnants of that lost world. When we meet her, Rose’s career involves cleaning up after the wealthier population in Albuquerque, N.M., which includes many of her former school chums.
Rose gets the idea to move from cleaning up after snobs to cleaning up after suicide and homicide victims. With sister Norah as her ambivalent partner, Rose buys an old van and starts Sunshine Cleaning, a business dedicated to disposing of the biohazardous aftermath of peoples’ last moments.
As they work together, Rose and Norah improve their own relationship and become more intimate with the idea of death.
Like any character-driven story, the strength of “Sunshine Cleaning” lies in the layers of connection between action and theme. The difficulty and emotional complexity of the new job creates an opportunity for the sisters to overcome their sense of inferiority.
While some movies would have ended with too much perfect happiness and some would have ended with too much gloom, “Sunshine Cleaning” strikes a balance that feels more like real life.