Ralph Feinnes (Onegin, The Avengers) does triple duty in Sunshine, the new movie by Hungarian Istvan Stabo (Sweet Emma, Dear Babe, Meeting Venus). Stabo, a Hungarian native, chronicles the rise and fall of various regimes in Hungary and their effect on one family. It may be difficult to distinguish each character Feinnes plays, but remember, as time passes, each one has less facial hair. Each generation must deal with anti-Semitism as well as being true to their heritage and to themselves.
The Sonnenscheins come to prominence in the late 1800s with their herbal tonic, A Taste of Sunshine (sunshine is the translation of Sonnenschein). The secret recipe lies in a black notebook, kept from Ignatz (Feinnes with moustache and beard) until he is ready to inherit it. Unfortunately, Ignatz, his brother Gustave (James Frain, Where the Heart Is, Reindeer Games) and his cousin Valerie (Jennifer Ehle, This Year's Love, Wilde) have no interest in brewing. Valerie becomes a photographer, Ignatz a distinguished judge and supporter of the Emperor, and Gustave an ardent supporter of communism. Ignatz realizes that his Jewish name is holding him back from advancing, so he changes his name to Sors. He also decides to marry Valerie, over the objections of his parents. Ignatz is the most driven of the Sors'. He has strong beliefs in right and wrong, and his fervent support of the Emperor, which aided his meteoric rise, also plays a part in his downfall.
Ignatz's son Adam (Feinnes again, now with moustache only) rises to prominence as a fencer. Again, anti-Semitism prevents him from playing on the Olympic team, so he officially converts to Catholicism. Adam and his brother Istvan (Mark Strong, Fever Pitch) feel little connection to their Jewish heritage. Their mother Valerie (played now by Rosemary Harris, Hamlet, My Life So Far, and also Ehle's mother) agrees, and the sons convert. Adam marries Hannah (Molly Parker, Waking the Dead, The Five Senses) but slowly begins to fall for his sister-in-law Greta (a luminous Rachel Weisz, The Mummy, Land Girls). Adam's story is the most compelling in Stabo's and Israel Horowitz, Fighting Over Beverly). Anti-Semitism bites hard, although he is Jewish in name only. All he wants to do is fence. Adam is a proud man, and cares not for the views of the government, which leads to undoing.
The final Sors is Ivan (it's that rascally Feinnes again, this time no facial hair). Ivan emerges scarred from World War II, and works with the Communist government in seeking out enemies. Ivan throws himself into his work with a fervid determination, outing Jews under the command of his boss Knorr (William Hurt, Dark City, The Proposition). Valerie (Harris) is still alive, and is the only person who guiding Ivan on his journey of self-discovery. This time, she is the one who helps Ivan along until the predictable but moving ending. Each of the Sors realizes that governments change, and Stabo uses the members of the Sors family to mimic the changes in Hungary. Members turn against each other, all in the because of their beliefs. All of Feinne's characters make similar mistakes, and Ignatz, Adam, and Ivan must all learn from them. Each generation could make a good movie, but together, Stabo weaves them together to make a movie that leaves a lasting impression.
|Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|3 hours, Rated R for strong sexuality, violence, language, and nudity.|
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