Sunshine Hotel

“Once you take the cherry out of life — once you take your wife or your love or however you — the cherry, life ain’t nothing man. It’s nothing. You’re a zero, and everything else you’re doing is just fucking around.”

Ray Stark

The Sunshine Hotel is one of the last remaining flophouses in New York’s Bowery neighbourhood, where residents can rent cubicles (they cannot be advertised as rooms since they are not fully enclosed, using chicken wire in lieu of a ceiling) for as little as $10 a night. Although named for the hotel, Michael Dominic’s documentary is really an exploration of the lives of its residents and the relevance of the Bowery as a place in which the near-destitute have continued to live within such an expensive city. Many suffer from paranoia, refusing to leave the building at all, which in turn creates a micro-economy as other residents act as runners. In these interviews, most of the storytelling comes directly from these overlooked New Yorkers ⁠— who seem eager at the prospect of an interested audience ⁠— with very rare interjections by Dominic to ask questions. It feels particularly authentic as a result, a historical record of lifestyle vanishing from New York — rising affluence and gentrification of the Bowery may seem positive on the surface, but these are the lives being swept away to make room, unlucky souls the city will no longer accommodate.

7/10