The entire 20th century serves as the backdrop for “Sunshine,” a story of a Jewish family struggling to hold onto its heritage and identity despite the tumultuous events that surround them. The film passes through five generations of the Sonnenchein family, with Ralph Fiennes playing three different patriarchs.
Filmed in Hungary, this historical drama follows the family’s rise and fall, loves and losses, unfolding against a backdrop of political turmoil and conflict, including the First and Second World Wars, and Stalinism with its aftermath.
A most interesting film, but it does not depict its people as having much character. They dismiss their name and religion to further their success in a land and time where it is best not to be Jewish. Also, ladies will most likely resent the portrait of the film female leads. They each tempt and lead the males into sin and near self-destruction. The poignancy of the film rests in its examination of how each generation repeats destructive acts. The most positive outcome of the film is the realization that religion is valid. The characters have been raised in, and embrace communism, complete with its disdain for religious beliefs. But finally, a character questions, “If there wasn’t a God, why do we miss Him so much?” He admits, “Religion is a well-built boat that will get us to the other shore.” I found it overly graphic, with little humor or joy found by its characters.