Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day peppers in optimism in the face of death. It is a difficult watch despite its big heart for we can see the devastation her cancer is having not only on her but her family.
John Connors’ debut feature is a heartbreakingly honest account of the final months of social influencer Jade McCann. As Jade’s emoji-laden Instagram posts first reveal her father’s unexpected cancer diagnosis, tragically followed only months later by her own, we are invited straight into the heart of her family as they face their mortality together, juggling resignation, acceptance, fear and humour. Told through Connors’ intimate black and white footage of her family mixed with Jade’s own social media confessionals as she documents their cancer battle.
There is no getting around the fact that this is a devastating documentary. The actual story of how soon after both father and daughter were diagnosed with cancer is heart-wrenching. You cannot imagine what her family and close circle were feeling at the time. As someone whose own mother passed away from the disease, it is difficult enough coping with one cancer fighter. Two truly is incomprehensible.
We see the vibrant and joyous life of Jade McCann via her social media account in a long supercut. She is a social media influencer with a solid following. Everything is through a filter and although Jade tries to present herself more separate from the standard fare of influencers in Ireland. She is utterly likeable and relatable though and so when she becomes serious to her followers about her dad’s prognoses and then her own not long later. It creates a side of social media rarely seen.
Hauntingly as Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day progresses, we see that joyful nature and enthusiasm for life shared by Jade and Anthony and the entire McCann family, slowly dwindle. After finding out she has cancer Jade states that she doesn’t regret anything in her life. That if she died now she would be happy. Months down the line that mood has changed. Regret comes to the front of a music career that was cut way too short because of other wrong opinions. Anthony himself changes from a dad joke-filled father to a frustrated and tired figure. Tired of the rounds of treatment that are ravaging his body.
Connors mixes up Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy day with a mixture of old videos and photos, talking heads and a mixture of Jade’s own social media posts. Showing that no matter what she is immortalised forever online. Her sincere and almost therapeutic posts first about Anthony’s cancer and then her struggles shows that until she had to, she put everything as honest as possible out there. She showed true bravery in doing this. For the majority of the piece we see everything in black and white except for Jade’s social media footage. It is an interesting technique, even if it does slightly take us away from the entire narrative. Interspersed through is intertitles detailing what looks like social media posts as chapters. Occasionally they have a change in follower counts added to them.
This addition of focusing a tad on the social media aspect is an interesting one. When Jade mentioned that she and Anthony are struggling, her followers count increases. Wen there are good days or weeks, it drops. It showcases the best and worst in humans in those moments. Do we stop caring about someone when it looks like things are going well or better for them? Are we hunting for a good tragedy story to cling unto and follow? While Connors could have lingered on this aspect a bit longer, he does enough for that we see. We could investigate and look at how social media and reality has warped people. In the end, this is a story about a father and a daughter going through the worst situation imaginable.
Jade campaigns for more awareness for her specific strand of cancer. She is open and candid about how she is doing. We witness a literal basket of medication that she has to take. Her struggle builds until a shocking intertitle appears on the final third of the film. This is at a point in the film where we are as low as we can get. Thankfully the audience is given a rest bite of this as optimism comes to Jade. That she shouldn’t give up just yet, if not for her, but others.
We finish with a scene that epitomises the strength that Jade had. A few short weeks before she succumbed to her disease. She brings back that thought of no regrets, to live life as full as you can that she lost in her previous troubled months. She, like her father Anthony, are people who should be remembered for how they approached life. Even when the worst was happening to them.
Through his visuals, Connors has shown an immense amount of confidence for someone making their debut feature. No matter what both McCanns are under that tree of life and always will be. Endless Sunshine on a Cloudy Day is a beautifully sad film.
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