'Sundown' review: Tim Roth shines in melancholic meditation on the purpose of life
Courtesy of Bleecker Street
Tim Roth’s Neil is used to getting what he wants. The head of a lucrative slaughterhouse dynasty which he shares with sister, Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage children (Albertine Kotting McMillan and Samuel Bottomley), Neil can snap his fingers and have any problem solved. Perhaps it’s that privilege or something more sinister at play that leads him to ditch his family when an unforeseen tragedy cuts their Acapulco beach resort vacation short. Such is the question at the heart of Michel Franco’s moody and intimate character drama “Sundown” with Tim Roth burying down the hatches in one of his more sturdy (and muted) performances.
Neil is fascinating to ponder. You want to reach through the screen and punch him after Alice and the kids leave for a family emergency and he stays behind because “he can’t find his passport.” Well, in the next scene, there’s a clear shot of a passport inside his luggage. What gives? Instead, Neil books a night at a cheap hotel, starts a beach-side bender, and essentially forgets about his problems because, ya know, why not! There’s not much dialogue throughout “Sundown,” just a quiet, removed Roth channeling several reactions that take some time to unfurl. One starts wondering if the class guilt of his wealthy monarch is eating away at him.
Nevertheless, Neil seems content sitting on the beach, chugging brews, and striking up a relationship with one of the locals rather than heading home to deal with real, pressing issues. This drama might be hard to stay engaged with as “Sundown” relies heavily on the ability for Roth to sell this sociopathic character. When a secret is revealed near the tail-end of the film, certain events and motivations come into focus, but it doesn’t make a strong forgiveness argument. This is a slow and crisp drama with limited action that’ll be hard to sway casual moviegoers.
That said, for what it’s trying to do “Sundown” finds strength in the silence befalling Neil’s journey. The cinematography is gorgeous, and Franco captures everything about Mexico’s allures from the sandy beaches to the buzzy city streets. It also captures pockets of violence including a beachside shooting and a highway chase that ends in bloodshed. “Sundown” isn’t your normal story about a man keen on throwing his entire life away, but it does show the extremes some are willing to endure in order to find peace within themselves.
SUNDOWN is now playing in select theaters