Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Mike Melo
Writer: Mike Melo
Actors: Hunter Davis, Samantha Creed, Alan Pelz-Sharpe, Mary Wright
By Joan Amenn
Poor Gregory Samuel (Hunter Davis) is having a no good, very bad day. He has overwhelming social anxiety that makes even riding a crowded bus to work a nightmare. His job as a funeral director might seem ideal for its lack of (living) human interaction but he still has to cope with co-workers who cause his insecurities to flame up even more. Fortunately for Gregory, he has a rare gem of a compassionate and understanding boss (Alan Pelz-Sharpe) who encourages him to take some time off and assures him his job will be waiting for him.
This is interpreted as rejection and confirmation of his own sense of worthlessness in Gregory who self-isolates in his apartment. This is all very painful to watch but a small ray of sunshine enters his life in the form of his neighbor, Emma (Samantha Creed). Quirky but fun loving and understandably curious about the strange man who peeks furtively at her behind his blinds, Emma tries to reach out to Gregory. This goes as well as can be expected, at first. “Sunny Side Up” breaks no new ground in its depiction of mental illness, nor is it particularly funny despite being referred to as a comedy in its press release. It tries to be light-hearted and amusing but the main character is so absorbed in his own misery, the film often gets bogged down in his continually self-berating monologues. Emma could obviously become a lifeline to Gregory and he recognizes this but it is hard to believe that she would want to subject herself to his wallowing in low self-esteem.
At one point, Gregory pulls out bottles of prescription medication he is taking to show how much of a “loser” he is only to have Emma whip out her own collection of meds from her purse. She tells him that taking medication is “normal.” This would be a great opening to a discussion between the two about their struggles with their mental health but it doesn’t happen. We don’t learn enough about Emma’s life and we hear too much about Gregory’s self-loathing. His mother (Mary Wright) who calls to check in on him is grating in her fussing and probing over her son. It would have been nice to see Gregory’s journey out of his darkness into a little more hopeful, happier life with the help of Emma and maybe his boss, Mr. Hendricks. Instead we are stuck in his exile of fear and angst and what’s worse is that the film seems to want us to laugh at it. “Sunny Side Up” has a solid leading man in Hunter Davis but he is given little more to do than sulk, pout and stare abstractly into the distance as he internally abuses himself. He deserves better and so does Samantha Creed who is so gifted comedically she can make scrambled eggs with chocolate syrup on top look good. It might be worth giving this film a chance just to see her pull it off.