Review by Tom Huddleston
Posted on 13 October 2006
Source Corey Marr Productions 35mm print
Features: The Times BFI 50th London Film Festival
Who Loves The Sun is a movie that sneaks up on you. For 20 minutes or so we’re squarely in indie territory, as disaffected loner Will Morrison returns to the place he grew up following a long and unexplained absence. The humour is dry, the characters mysterious, the actors recognisable but fairly smalltime, the potential for dark discoveries and a final bitter acceptance of life’s essential ironic unfairness seemingly limitless. It’s nothing we’ve not seen before, in a thousand small towns, from a thousand struggling directors with personal stories to tell. There’s plaintive acoustic music on the soundtrack, filling the awkward silences between the characters. The photography is lush but precise, the direction fluid but unspectacular.
Will has come to confront former best friend Daniel Bloom, an easygoing charmer with a bestselling novel on the shelves and a perfect life writing magazine copy in New York City. Will has been missing for five years, ever since he walked in on Daniel and his wife Maggie in flagrante in the boathouse. It’s not long before Maggie herself arrives, and emotions flare.
The setup is pure Bergman, or rather pure Woody-Allen-doing-Bergman. There’s a log cabin in the woods, a group of conflicting, conflicted characters full of blame and resentment, seeking answers. But what saves Who Loves The Sun is the humour. In fact, the film is more than saved: it soars. Once the awkwardness of the first act is out of the way and we’re getting stuck into the characters the film comes alive, bursting with sly recriminatory asides and backstabbing wit, as Will and Daniel circle around one another and around Maggie, trading insults and eventually blows.
As Maggie, Molly Parker grounds the film effortlessly, a luminous performance easily transcending the slightly objectified roots of the character. It would have been easy to filter Maggie purely through the male characters’ visions of her, as cheating wife or object of obsession respectively. But Parker gives Maggie her own veracity and her own voice: although she berates Will for walking out on her, we’re never sure how much she regrets her decision, or how bad her life has been since he left. She seems comfortable with her independence.
Lukas Haas bravely underplays as Will, a decision which makes the character difficult to like at first, keeping his secrets closely guarded, even from the audience. But as Maggie draws him out we begin to see the warmth in him, as old affections are tentatively, then playfully rediscovered. As Daniel, Adam Scott has perhaps the most thankless role, self centred and heartless in the opening scenes, shifting to object first of derision then of pity, broken and humiliated, perhaps a little cruelly.
The film avoids indie pitfalls—there’s longing here, and loneliness, but it never becomes dour. The characters retain their integrity to the very end, and writer-director Bissonnette resists the temptation to indulge in any third act histrionics: the twist, when it comes, is subtly played and genuinely resonant. Even the photography improves by leaps as the film progresses, the muted greens and browns of the opening scenes replaced by some dazzling moments of sun-kissed grandeur, the natural beauty of the lakeside landscape lovingly captured.
In the final analysis, Who Loves The Sun is superbly effective, sweet and witty and effortlessly charming. There will be those who accuse Bissonnette of a lack of ambition, a willingness to work over old themes. But this is missing the point; Who Loves The Sun works as an evocation, a familiar and well loved melody beautifully played.