Sundown: a movie review by Alex First

July 8, 2022 by Alex First
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An intelligent, slow-burn movie in which little appears to happen for a long time and much remains unsaid, thereafter the shocks come.

Two fine actors in Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg are cast in the lead roles. They play Neil and Alice Bennett.

At first, we can’t put a finger on the nature of their relationship, but it turns out they are brother and sister.

The pair are holidaying in Acapulco with her two adult children, Colin and Alexa (Samuel Bottomley and Albertine Kotting McMillan).

They are in idyllic palatial surrounds, staying in a luxury hotel resort complete with an infinity pool, the ocean and magnificent views.

They lounge about, swim, drink and sleep. In short, they look utterly carefree and relaxed, although Alice remains highly strung.

And then disaster strikes, the result of which is Alex and the kids boarding the next flight home to London, which includes a stopover.

Neil was supposed to go with them, but he makes up an excuse that he has lost his passport and indicates that he will be along the next day.

Well, that doesn’t happen. Nor the following day or the day after that.

Instead, he books into another hotel – this time a down-market one – still within easy reach of the ocean.

He appears to be in no hurry to go anywhere.

And then he meets and hooks up with a local retailer, Berenice (Iazua Larios). Soon, they are in a hot and heavy relationship.

Neil appears totally chilled, as he does throughout the picture.

Meanwhile, in spite of his sister’s desperate appeals, he skips an important family funeral and cuts off contact with her.

She is incensed and at that stage we, like her, are none the wiser as to why he is behaving the way he is.

In time though, much more goes down and we gain an understanding.

The jigsaw puzzle that is Sundown is the work of Mexican writer and director Michel Franco, who has fared well at the Cannes Film Festival with his previous works.

It is a thoughtful and provocative piece that ultimately benefits from the time taken to massage us into a false sense of security.

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We keep hoping something will happen to elevate the film from its languid tourism promotional beginning – enticing though that, in itself, is (the imagery and photography by Yves Cape is stunning).

But when it does, it hits hard.

The skill from the writer/director and performers is milking it … and that they do.

Neil’s sense of calm is galling to Alice, especially so in light of the lack of explanation for his actions (or better put, his inaction).

Gainsbourg captures that smouldering intensity particularly well.

It is the sharpest of contrasts to the laid-back acceptance that Tim Roth quite fittingly brings to his representation.

I also appreciated the tension in the room whenever the peacemaker, in this case the family lawyer Richard (Henry Goodman), entered the fray.

It is a position that requires diplomacy and respect, and Goodman brings that in spades.

I found Sundown intriguing (notwithstanding the fact that for quite some time it did my head in, as I dare say was Franco’s intent) and ultimately satisfying.

Rated MA, it scores an 8 out of 10. Running time: 82 minutes

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