Sunshine Cleaning

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Not suitable under 15 (Disturbing themes and scenes, Violence, Sex scenes, Drug references, Coarse language)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Sunshine Cleaning
  • a review of Sunshine Cleaning completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 June 2009.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 15 Not suitable due to disturbing themes and scenes, violence, sex scenes, drug use and coarse language.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Sunshine Cleaning
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Mature themes, violence, coarse language, sex scenes, drug use and nudity
Length: 91 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) is an insecure single mother who used to be the most popular girl in her high school but now cleans houses for a living. She is having an affair with her high school sweetheart Mac (Steve Zahn) who has been married for ages and has no intention of leaving his wife. Rose is disillusioned with her life and dreams of marrying Mac and becoming a real estate agent. When her son Oscar (Jason Spevack) is expelled from his public school and private schools are the only option, Rose must find a way to make some money fast. She turns to Mac who, as a detective, links her with some crime scene clean ups. These are messy and grotesque, but the money is good and Rose enlists her unreliable sister Nora (Emily Blunt) to help in order to get them done.
They bumble their way through their first couple of jobs, but then get some advice and assistance from Winston (Clifton Collins Jr.) a cleaning product salesman. Business begins to take off and Rose begins to get used to the stench and brutality of the work that they do, even seeing it as a source of pride that they are able to help other people in dreadful situations.
When an accident threatens their business Rose’s father Joe (Alan Arkin) makes a huge sacrifice in order to see her succeed where he had failed.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Crime scene clean ups; suicide; death of a parent; family break down

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • A man walks into a gun shop and blows his head off with a shot gun. There are pieces of the man splattered across the store.
  • The after effects of a domestic violence scene can be viewed when Rose and Nora go to clean a house. There is furniture strewn everywhere and massive blood stains all over the shower.
  • A man commits suicide and there are blood stains all over the chair where he died.
  • A drunk driver ploughs a car into a shop, smashing the shop front window.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Nora goes to a wooden, railway, bridge in the middle of the night. She has been drinking and is in emotional pain when she climbs underneath the tracks and puts her hand up through the spaces in the track as the train is bearing down on her. She whips her hand out of the way in the nick of time and screams while the train roars inches over her head. The scene is dark, confusing and likely to be upsetting to younger viewers.
  • Nora flashes back to the day that she and Rose, as young children, ran into the house to find their mother lying dead in a pool of blood after she had committed suicide. Rose is horrified, but even in those initial moments tries to protect Nora. Little Nora is inconsolable, crying in agony as the impact of what has happened begins to hit her. The scene is very distressing.
  • All of the houses that the sisters clean have blood stains, on mattresses, chairs, showers, etc. The images would certainly raise some questions and may also be very disturbing to children in this age group, especially as Rose must also, occasionally, deal with the reactions of the family members who have found the bodies.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the themes and scenes in this film

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Nora tells Rose, “Me screwing up gives you the hugest woody.”


Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Rose and Mac meet up in a hotel. They immediately begin to kiss and undress each other. Rose is straddling him on the bed while they kiss.
  • After Rose and Mac have sex in a hotel room we see Mac naked from behind while he pulls on his pants. Rose is wearing a bra and panties.
  • Nora changes for a baby shower and is wearing only pants and a bra while she asks Oscar to help her choose a dress.
  • Nora is lying on a bed while an unnamed man is having sex with her. His naked buttocks  are exposed and the scene is very realistic. While they are having sex, Nora suddenly hears something on TV and demands that he get off her.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Nora (and others) frequently smoke cigarettes. Rose used to, but apparently now wears a patch.
  • People drink alcohol, beer, wine etc.
  • Nora and her friends smoke a joint.
  • One of the places that they must clean belonged to an alcoholic.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • frequent use of the words fuck, fucking, fucked, shit, bullshit, damn and God damn.
  • bastard, idiot, and bad ass are also occasionally used.


In a nutshell

Sunshine Cleaning is a drama featuring believable performances and some disturbing realities. It is inappropriate for children but may be of interest to mature audiences.
The main messages from this movie are that even in the darkest situations there can still be light; even when surrounded with violence and grief there can still be kindness and compassion. You just have to know where and how to look.
Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with older adolescents include:

  • optimism, perseverance, compassion and believing in yourself.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • the effects of suicide on those who are left behind.
  • the impact that adultery can have on a family and also on the self-esteem of the individuals in question.
  • trying to make a fast buck without going through the proper channels.
  • the effects that drugs and alcohol can have on an individual and on the relationships that they have with those around them.