Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • 15
  • Adventure, Comedy
  • 2006
  • 102 mins

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine


Dark comedy following a dysfunctional family crossing America in a battered VW camper van so that their seven-year-old can compete in the eponymous beauty pageant


Sundance favourite Little Miss Sunshine is a quirky little film that is almost impossible to categorise. Not quite drama, not out-and-out comedy, this charming and unusually understated film manages to squeeze more honesty and understanding into an hour-and-a-half than you'll get from a whole course of therapy.

The family unit comprises a randy old grandfather with a coke habit (Arkin), parents with marital problems (Kinnear and Collette), a suicidal gay uncle (Carell), a Nietzsche-obsessed teen who's taken a vow of silence (Dano) and Olive, a podgy seven-year-old who wants to be a beauty queen (Breslin).

When a stroke of luck means Olive gets to compete in the prestigious Little Miss Sunshine pageant in California, the whole family bundle their kit bags and problems into the VW to head across the continent to fulfil Olive's dreams.

Dysfunctional families are a common occurrence in independent films, but first-time directors Faris and Dayton do not merely make their characters ciphers for the jaded theme of the dissolution of the American dream. The extremely talented cast make the dysfunction fresh and amusing. This is ensemble acting at its most effective, with uniformly excellent performances. The real star, though, is Abigail Breslin as Olive, a character so fully-realised you almost forget she's seven.

The pageant itself is macabre. While not played for laughs, these sequences are among the funniest in the film. The other contestants are, of course, terrifying. The little JonBenet Ramseys are dressed like streetwalkers and held together with enough hairspray to re-enact the Hindenburg disaster. In beautiful counterpoint to Olive, each possesses the steely-eyed look of John Dillinger. Only shorter. And more sequined. And able to tap dance.

While the comedy is most certainly black, this is a remarkably uplifting, endearing and moving film. A treat.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Abigail Breslin, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell, Paul Dano
  • Director: Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton
  • Screen Writer: Michael Arndt
  • Producer: Marc Turtletaub, Ron Yerxa, David T Friendly, Peter Saraf, Albert Berger
  • Photographer: Tim Suhrstedt
  • Composer: Mychael Danna

In a nutshell

Charming, funny and wonderfully acted: this delight of independent cinema will make you want to pick up the phone and call your own dysfunctional family just to tell them you love them.

by Ben Reynolds

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4


    Katell Quillévéré's family-based drama follows Suzanne, a teenage mother who falls for a gangster

  • Film4

    The Purge

    Ethan Hawke stars in James DeMonaco's drama about a sanctioned night where all crime is legal

  • Film4

    Me and You on Film4

    Premiere of Bernardo Bertoluccis drama about a boy and his half-sister who run away together.

  • Film4

    Philadelphia on Film4

    Denzel Washington and Oscar-winning Tom Hanks star in Jonathan Demme's powerful drama.

  • Channel 4 Blog

    BIFA brings 2015 nominated films to cinemas

    BIFA-nominated films including the Film4-backed 45 Years, The Lobster, Macbeth, Amy and Ex Machina will be available in cinemas nationwide from 23 November in a special public screenings event. The

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Film4-backed films receive 41 nominations at the BIFAs

    Film4 has received a total of 41 nominations for the films it has backed at this year¿s British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs), with the nomination lists for the Best British Film and Best Director a

Register with

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register