These are three sections from different reviews on Sunshine. Each comment on the character of Valerie Sonnenschein, and Jennifer Ehle's portrayal.
By Dana Knowles
This section of Sunshine is greatly buoyed by the captivating presence and endearing performance of Jennifer Ehle as Valerie. Though her character remains as sketchy as the others, one thing is clear: Valerie is the inextinguishable ray of sunshine in this clan. She seeks little more from life than passion and beauty, and is confounded by the realization that Ignatz does not (or cannot) share her view. Instead, he seeks acceptance from the state, seeing himself as an extension of the ruling hand of the Emperor, whom he reveres in spite of the oppression inherent in that rule. Ignatz is personal ambition and blind nationalism run amok. When he tumbles out of favor along with the regime he serves, the breadth of his failures (professional and personal) are inconceivable to him.
San Francisco Chronicle
Ignatz is an intellectual and a climber, but he needs Valerie's life force as desperately as a Fiennes movie needs Jennifer Ehle. Make no mistake, Fiennes is superb, managing to suggest a different essence for each of the three men he plays. But as Valerie, Ehle is the sunshine in ``Sunshine,'' suggesting a woman whose genius for living, whose knack for seeing the beautiful, is the result not of some quirk of personality, but of enormous wisdom and courage.
By Rick Barton (** Editor's note within)
Sunshine offers gorgeous costumes, rich production design, and wonderful photography by Lajos Koltai. The huge supporting cast is quite strong, chief among them the terrific daughter-mother team of Jennifer Ehle and Rosemary Harris, who play the younger and older roles of Valerie Sonnenschein (Sors), wife of Ignatz, mother of Adam, and grandmother of Ivan. Despite Valerie's considerable life force, the healthiest and strongest of all her kin, the treatment of the film's female characters proves frustratingly elusive. I didn't deduce the point of Valerie's incestuous relationship with her husband. She is his first cousin, and from the age of perhaps 3, she was raised as his sister. Moreover, though this plot detail is never made clearly, we gather that Valerie conducts a long affair with Ignatz's brother, Gustave (**Uh, no… see question no. 82 of the fan interview). And for a time, the product of a camera that mysteriously and repeatedly lingers on a minor character's face, we even suspect that Valerie is involved in a lesbian relationship with Kato (Katja Studt), the family maid (**WHAT MOVIE WAS HE WATCHING?).