After last year’s lean and mean Nuevo Orden (New Order), divisive Mexican provocateur Michel Franco teams up with Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg for another unsettling ride.
Bracing but nowhere near as bleak as New Order, Sundown gets under your skin in a hypnotising way, drawing you into a bleak story which cannot be neatly summed up without destroying some of the script’s twists and wilful narrative omissions. The slimmest of loglines could go like this: a wealthy family is vacationing at a resort in Acapulco until a phone call brings news of a death in the family. Everyone is gearing up to return home for the funeral, but Neil (Tim Roth) seems keen to delay his return…
That’s all you’re getting. Also safe to say that Sundown has the soul of a silent movie, relying on visuals to convey information (as opposed to unwieldy dialogue) and shines as an excellent meditation on borrowed time. It also sees Franco double down on one of his trademarks: the sudden and startling burst of violence that makes your heart skip a beat.
Not that it’s all faultless: even clocking in at a lean 82 minutes, the pace will be too meandering for some tastes, and the film undeniably stumbles when it reveals too much towards the end, thereby undoing much of the uneasiness that emanated from the measured ambiguity Franco mastered up until the third act. However, Sundown does remain a mesmerising and moving piece of work, at the heart of which is Tim Roth’s mostly silent and stunning turn that bursts with humanity. ★★★★
- Starts June 9 D: Michel Franco (Mexico, US, 2021), with Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg.