Plot: Kate (Cristina Raines) and Sam (Cliff De Young) might not have a storybook romance, but the couple has a lot of love and even when they argue, the passion shines through. She has a daughter from a previous relationship, but Sam loves the little girl as if she was his own and the trio makes an eclectic, but loving family. Sam wants to pursue his love of music and always seems to have his guitar within reach, while Kate loves nature and the outdoors. The life the couple has built seems to be right on track, but when Kate is diagnosed with cancer, their lives are turned upside down and some hard choices have to be made. As she faces her mortality head on, Kate records audio diaries to leave her thoughts and lessons behind for her daughter. Even in these tough and soul searching moments, Kate remains a determined and blunt persona, so she and Sam have some life left to live.
Entertainment Value: One of the most popular made for television movies ever, Sunshine was a ratings smash and resonated with audiences of all kinds, inspired by the real life story behind the narrative. This kind of terminal illness story has been told time and time again, but Sunshine is able to rise above the pack, as it builds real emotion, but doesn’t lean as much on saccharine and melodrama. The movie presents Kate as a strong, but flawed person even in her final days, whereas most films of this kind would gloss over the arguments and conflict. To me, the realistic approach taken makes Kate more human and by turn, her story is deeper and more relatable, which of course adds to the emotional beats. I think the realism is a boon for Sunshine, as those who love emotional dramas will connect, but even those not often drawn to this kind of material should be hooked in as well. The natural emotional depth comes from the material in part, based on the tragic, but inspiring real life story, as well as the believable turns from the cast and authentic production design elements. The movie creates a realistic world that feels believable and that is crucial to this kind of human spirit narrative, leaving Sunshine as one of the most beloved television productions. Even if you’re not usually taken in by this kind of emotion fueled drama, Sunshine is a cut above the crowd and well recommended.
While made for tv movies are often looked down upon compared to their theatrical peers, Sunshine manages to deliver performances on par with major motion pictures and was even screened in limited theaters. Cristina Raines is the stand out here, in an effort that conveys such humanity within Kate, a perfect balance of strength and vulnerability. The material gives her some great chances to shine and Raines more than makes use of those instances, giving the character depth and making her so easy to connect with. This kind of role can fall into melodrama and manipulation, but Raines keeps that in check and her performances ensures Sunshine is able to rise above most of its made for television peers. Cliff De Young is also quite good as Kate’s husband and the two have a warm chemistry, both in scenes of romance and heated arguments, so the passion is there. The cast also includes Meg Foster, Brenda Vaccaro, Bill Mumy, and James Hong.
The Disc: This is Sunshine’s home video debut, so Twilight Time marks the occasion with a new 4k scan of the original film elements to ensure those who have waited for decades will be pleased at last. The movie looks fantastic on Blu-ray, with a clean and crystal clear presentation that defies the film’s age and retains the natural texture, which is one sure sign of a skilled treatment. The colors are warm, but natural and contrast is even and consistent. The long wait was worth it, as Twilight Time has delivered a terrific visual effort and then some. The extras include the film’s theatrical trailer.