You Are My Sunshine
21 Feb 2022
Jack Knight, Steve Salt, Simon Bamford, Charlie Clarke, Rosemary Manjunath, Charles O'Neill, Ernest Vernon, Jonathan Butler
The modern world is a product of the past but many live with the stubborn legacy of their own upbringing. You Are My Sunshine is a sensitive study of a family shocked by the revelation their son is gay and emotional fallout in the years that followed. The story told in flashback jumps between the 1970s and present day. From a time when homosexuality was recently legalised to the more enlightened present is a fascinating contrast. Society moves on but progress will often fall between tolerance and acceptance.
Joe (Jack Knight) and Tom (Steve Salt) meet as teenagers and initially seem to be opposites. Joe is quiet and diffident while Tom is sociable, gregarious and outgoing. Chemistry quickly turns into romance as they become an item. Joe’s father (Simon Bamford) recoils in disgust when he learns the truth; sister Ethel (Charlie Clarke) feels betrayed by Joe’s behaviour. Joe and Tom are undaunted as they resolve to live as a couple whatever the family think.
Time passes as Ethel and Joe become increasingly estranged from each other. In middle age Ethel (Rosemary Manjunath) and Joe (Charles O’Neill) meet again but seem further apart than ever. Ethel’s son John (Jonathan Butler) acts as peacemaker and gets Ethel to call Joe. She instead gets Tom (Ernest Vernon) and as they speak the ice slowly begins to melt. However, there is a bombshell waiting for all of them that changes everything.
Writer and director David Hastings builds an affecting story of how a family can be torn apart just because someone is different. However, the feeling continually nags that Ethel as a character needs to be fleshed out more. What actually caused the split with her own brother? To ostracise Joe because of his sexual preference can’t be the only reason. If it is then we need hear more from Ethel as the antagonist in the piece.
Although the flashbacks are adequate mechanisms there’s nothing to pin down the era in which they met. We presume it’s the 1970s because of its proximity to legalisation; but can never be certain because younger Joe and Tom are pictured wandering through the countryside which can never date. It might sound like a minor quibble but this story relies on accurate historic context to be truly authentic. Aside from that it remains a sincere and moving portrait of a couple trying to live their life.