A life-altering friendship is formed between a man and 11-year-old child after the passing of the boy’s father.
We first join singer/guitar player Sunny Daze, not as he makes it to fame and money early in life, but during the time of decline, years later. That’s not to say the prolific musician is a total has-been; he flirts with the thought of resurfacing and is encouraged by friends who believe in his talent. He’s an attentive, loving father of three, and all around good guy, loved by those who know him. He’s even taken on the responsibility of being the dad figure to Sean, his deceased best friend, Mickey’s boy. But now his money is running out, especially since he feeds a secret cocaine addiction. Necessarily, he leads a dual life, sneaking into his favorite bar with his best buddies, diving into ravaging snort parties, and returning home to a not-so-happy wife who thinks his only problem is alcohol. As the cocaine episodes become more volatile, leaching poison into both brain and psyche, he wrestles with the why and how. And his wife leaves for Mexico.
We continue to see more of the relationship between Sunny and Sean develop as they struggle to conquer their fears and emotional wars. Even more, we see Sunny battling with his inner self, aware he’s committing slow suicide, unable to jump off the toxic merry-go-round. His desperate visits with cocaine insidiously continue to rake his soul. His conscience manifests itself as Mickey’s ‘ghost’, pleading to steer Sunny away from self destruction. He fights with his ex-wife, fights with friends, and fights with himself, not being there for his boy coming out of surgery. In self-hate and disgust, Sunny resolves to tear away from the little voice in his head coaxing, “One more date with darkness, one more chat with the devil.” During one last frantic round of cocaine and alcohol, Mickey appears again, urging Sunny to realize the answer doesn’t lie in the belt tied around his neck. Then, in a determined effort to save Sunny, his friends band together in a blockade of loving honesty, finally convincing him to seek help.
Sunny Daze undoubtedly has its highs and lows. Jason Wiles’ portrayal of Sunny is extraordinarily complete, worthy of nomination, in my opinion. Multiple difficult scenes are grippingly real, especially between Sunny and Mickey. Even scenes involving smaller roles command attention, all actors delivering strong performances. We can see into the head and heart of a tortured drug addict. Production values are very good, and original music accentuates Sunny’s talent and musical identity. The big ‘however’ is in the writing- not that the story suffers; the narration is intriguing and dialogue super real, but the language is like something out of a David Mamet play. The script presents the ubiquitous f-word in every grammatical form imaginable- noun, verb, adjective, dangling participle – you name it. Surely the English language offers other descriptive word choices. Even the children spew shocking profanities like Old Faithful. Not really a Dove family value. In light of this and the many rabid drug-use scenes, Sunny Daze is not Dove-approved.