A wealthy British man (Tim Roth) abandons his life and family in Acapulco with tragic consequences.
Mexican auteur Michel Franco delivers both a searing and remarkably cold exploration of wealth disparity. Sundown follows a seemingly indifferent British man as he abandons his family for the trappings of Acapulco. The plot builds slowly with sparse dialogue and visual cues. Then punches in the gut with fleeting violence that brings the true scope of the narrative into focus. Sundown is a calculated character study across the societal spectrum. It paints an ugly picture of a beautiful place.
A rich family luxuriates in a stunning Acapulco villa. Neil (Tim Roth) watches silently as Alice (Charlotte Gainsburg) sunbathes. The twenty-something children, Alexa (Albertine Kotting McMillan) and Colin (Samuel Bottomley), splash playfully in the private pool. A well-dressed servant brings cocktails. They enjoy a concert during their steak dinner. Alice receives a frantic call the following day. An emergency in London means they must return immediately.
The family packs and races to the airport to catch the next flight. Neil has forgotten his passport in their haste. He urges the others to leave. He will follow shortly. But Neil doesn’t return to the resort. He wants to go to the beach. The taxi driver takes him to a seedy hotel. Neil enjoys the warmth of the blazing sun and pristine sand. He strikes up a conversation with Bernice (Iazua Larios), an attractive shopkeeper. Their flirting quickly moves to the bedroom. Bernice notices that Neil’s phone rings continuously. He casually ignores it while basking in her sensual company. Neil’s lazy romping gets a reality check when an irate Alice returns.
Sundown reveals almost nothing for half of its brief eighty-three minutes runtime. We watch Neil and wonder what the hell is he doing? Does he simply not care? Why is he so calm in walking away from everything that supposedly matters? The answers aren’t that mysterious. Director/writer Michel Franco (After Lucia, New Order) fools with a cinematic sleight of hand. Much of what we assume about Neil, Alice, and the children isn’t true. But it doesn’t lessen the sting of Neil’s apathetic behavior. That reveal in the third act leads to stunning consequences.
Michel Franco’s message boils down to exploitation. Wealthy foreigners can enjoy the best of what Acapulco has to offer. Extravagant accommodations, food, drink, and sex are available at a whim. Bernice wouldn’t leap into the sack so easily with a poor Mexican. But life for the struggling working class is beset by violence and corruption. Neil experiences this harsh lesson first hand, yet remains unfazed. He has his own agenda and pursues it regardless of the scorn. His actions are selfish, but surprisingly make sense in the context of the story. Tim Roth is fantastic as usual in an understated performance.
Sundown grabs you with its laconic approach. Franco’s protagonist says very little. The camera follows him like a detective trying to decipher his next move. These scenes are punctuated with sun imagery and lens flare. What gives life and comfort can also burn and destroy. Sundown is a production of Teorema. It will be released in select theaters on January 28th from Bleecker Street.
Marvel’s Japanese website last week featured some unexpected Disney+ shows, but it seems that these have now been dropped from the 2022 schedule.
Film critic, raconteur, praying for dolphins to grow thumbs and do better.