Have you briefly had a text/voice message relationship with someone whose face you had never seen and then suddenly felt devastated when they disappeared from your life? Sunny (Jayasurya) experiences such a loss twice in his new film with director Ranjith Sankar. Both losses elicit different responses. In one instance, he even gets to see the individual’s face, albeit partially. These moments are just a minor part of the film, but it’s a bunch of smaller moments like these that elevate it.
Sunny has been touted as a single-character drama, but, thankfully, it doesn’t feel like one because the secondary characters make their presence known through voice messages and pictures. This is also a post-pandemic film that makes us feel the impact of the debilitating event more than any other film set in the present scenario. Sunny, who just landed in Kochi, has to undergo all the quarantine procedures, and we get to see each step of it. We get a vivid picture of the frustrating experience of flight travellers.
Now combine this with the protagonist’s personal troubles, and things get a bit heavy. Malayalam film buffs familiar with Jayasurya’s earlier work may not discover anything new. However, Sunny exists as a solid work to introduce the actor’s capabilities to non-Malayali audiences who have either not seen any of his films or seen very little. Sunny is tailor-made for an actor of Jayasurya’s calibre. It has all the elements that we know the actor can wonderfully pull off. That doesn’t mean I’m discounting all his efforts. It’s just not... new. Some of the film’s early portions see the actor retreading the territory of his most recent work, Vellam—about a man struggling with alcohol addiction. Sunny is not about addiction, though. It’s about one man battling his inner demons. He stays at a swanky hotel in Kochi but is unable to find comfort in the luxury. The alcohol withdrawal symptoms further amplify his self-destructive tendencies.
Accomplished names like Siddique, Innocent, Vijayaraghavan, Sshivada, Aju Varghese, Vijay Babu and Shruti Ramachandran provide the voices for the characters who have impacted Sunny positively or negatively. I know I’m not going to be the only one who would point out the Mathilukal touch when Sunny strikes up a conversation with a woman, Aditi (Shritha Sivadas), quarantining in the floor above his. It’s a nice, heartwarming touch in a film that, for the most part, is dominated by the darkness inside Sunny. The embarrassment he tries to hide when she finds out that he was about to do something terrible or the scene where Sunny, desperate for communication, initiates a conversation with the medic who comes to take his Covid-19 test.... it’s moments like these that bring out the best in Jayasurya.
Being the reflective film that it is, Sunny doesn’t forget to find moments of pause. It is more driven by mood than plot. Cinematographer Madhu Neelakandan beautifully records the raindrops on window panes, the swaying curtains, Kochi skyline, the fallen dupatta, or the potted plant with which Sunny establishes a personal connection. His perspective lensing effectively conveys Sunny’s disorientation when he goes through one of his ‘episodes’.
The film’s atmosphere also benefits from Shameer Muhammed’s fluid editing, Sinoy Joseph’s immersive sound work, and Sankar Sharma’s soulful background score. Vijayaraghavan plays the police officer inquiring about Sunny’s health, and Innocent makes a significant impact as the friendly and patient counsellor who wants to prevent Sunny from doing something rash.
The film doesn’t break any new ground in single-character/single-location storytelling, but it succeeds in tugging at one’s heartstrings in several places in its 93-min runtime. Some might find the deliberate pacing bothersome, but those who had experienced long periods where they had nothing but their thoughts to keep them company—and desperately craved another person’s company—might find the film relatable, if only to a certain extent. The film’s hopeful final moments are relieving, even if they feel a bit rushed. But I prefer to look on the ‘sunny’ side in this case.
Director: Ranjith Sankar
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video