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Sticking Together: Family Relations Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jan 3rd, 2022

Sticking Together

The little miss sunshine film is a unique movie. Rarely will a movie director embed suspense and emotion to a movie that has a rather simple plot acted on the road? But little Miss Sunshine is all that and more. The most important lesson from the movie is the importance of sticking together as a family. The plot brings out various issues but conflict seems to be the main theme of the script.


Many themes can be identified in the plot nut conflict is one of the most outstanding themes. Conflict begins right from the onset of the plot. When Olive qualifies for the beauty contest dubbed little miss sunshine, Edwin, who was her coach and her parents want to support her but they have meager resources. In addition, they wonder who is going to be left to watch over Dwayne and Frank. They are also faced with the challenge of time constraints since the pageant is only two days away. The conflict is solved by the decision to take the whole family along but since they have no money, they decide to bundle in the Volkswagen van and drive to the venue.

Conflict continues to emerge throughout the tense moments that the family goes through on the road trip. We for instance learn of the conflict that Frank had with his gay boyfriend which made him attempt suicide. He was bitter because his ex-boyfriend had left him for an academic one. Richard is also faced with a conflict of choice. His choice to stick with Olive makes him lose a very lucrative deal. The contract would have put him on the pedestal he needed to realize his motivational speaking dream. Occasionally, the car breaks down and the family is required to push the car to jumpstart it then they would have to run after it and jump in.

The theme of conflict is further portrayed when Edwin succumbs to the effects of his heroin addiction and dies. The family is unable to pay the hospital bill and they try to talk to the administrator to allow them to leave the body in the hospital and go to the pungent first than return later to pay up and pick the body. The administrator will hear none of this and this prompts the family to smuggle out the body and carry it in the van with them. The decision almost got them into trouble when a police officer almost discovered the body. We also see the theme of conflict when Dwayne discovers that he is color blind. This devastates him since his dream of one day becoming a pilot has now been shattered by the realization. He is so devastated that he breaks his silence for the first time.

The ultimate conflict is seen when after all the ordeals that the family has faced to arrive at the pungent, they are informed that they have arrived too late and they can not be allowed in. Luckily, however, a hired hand intervenes and helps olive secure her chance. At this point, it becomes clear that Olive lacks the glamour that the other contests have. Dwayne and Richard want to talk her out of participating as they don’t want her to humiliate herself but Sheryl disagrees with the two saying that they should “let Olive be olive”.


Sheryl is Olive’s mother. She is portrayed as a hardworking mother who is struggling to make ends meet for her family as well as struggling with the issues and challenges that are brought about by parenthood. From the very onset and throughout the entire film, she comes out as the glue by which the family keeps together. We see her constantly reminding the family that they belonged together even though it is apparent that the family is at best dysfunctional. We can see this when Frank attempted to commit suicide and failed and Sheryl told him that she is glad that he didn’t die. We also see her handle the rebellious son by a simple yet powerful statement, “you know, whether you like it or not, we are still your family, for better or for worse”.

Sheryl plays a pivotal role in the plot. The film is about sticking together as a family. Sheryl continually reminds the family members to stick together. The movie begins with a much-disintegrated family but the family keeps getting closer through the different stages of the journey. By the time they reach the beauty pageant, they hop to the stage as one unit in solidarity with Olive who is making a very bad impression on the judges and the entire audience.

Olive is the other important character in the film. She is the protagonist of an entire film. She is the youngest in the family and she has a dream of winning the “little miss sunshine” crown. She begins being trained by her grandfather, Edwin, in the evenings after school. One of the most important roles that Olive plays in the film is that while all the other members are somewhat affected by the disintegrated nature of the family, she seems to have no idea that the family is dysfunctional. She is neither afraid nor intimidated about sharing out her desires with her family members.

Olive values the opinion of her family as we see her asking her grandfather whether she was pretty. When he answered the affirmative, she gathers the courage to go for the pageant and contest for the crown. Olive is arguably one of the strongest members of the family, maybe compared only to her mother Cheryl. Albeit her naivety, Olive is so determined to go for the pageant, and quitting on the way seems to be no option for her. She manages to get all her family rallying behind her and it is her desire that eventually brought the family together.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Sticking Together: Family Relations Analysis." January 3, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/sticking-together-family-relations-analysis/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Sticking Together: Family Relations Analysis'. 3 January.

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