Sundown (2021) Venice Film Festival

September 7th, 2021
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir/Wri: Michel Franco | Cast: Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg | Thriller 83’

Neil Bennett is just starting to relax in a plush Mexican resort with his sister Alice and her two teenagers, when a phone call shatters their idyll. Their mother has been taken to hospital and soon after dies.

Hurriedly getting their stuff together they dash to the airport. But Neil has forgotten his passport, leaving his neurotic sister to pick up the pieces back home. So begins Michel Franco’s latest thriller with his signature plot twists and nasty surprises: a blueprint for lean storytelling unravelling in just over an hour, Sundown just might change your life.

Louche, snarky and yet utterly devastating Sundown is all about serendipity – how life suddenly falls into place and then out again. You can’t help rooting for Neil, a suitably laid back Tim Roth, he does what everyone wants to do, walking away from responsibility, following his heart. Charlotte Gainsbourg is a strung-out, stressful bundle of nerves as Alice, and you just want to run away from her and that’s what Neil does. Running a successful slaughterhouse business the family is loaded. Money has never been a problem, and it shows in their flip attitude in a tight little thriller with its clipped dialogue: nothing is spare.

Leaving the airport Neil heads back to a squalid hotel in downtown Acapulco and it’s here that he finds contentment in a love affair with a local Mexican brunette.  Pretending to be organising a new passport with the consulate he drinks beer and shoots the breeze, ignoring his sister’s endless phone calls. When Alice finds him, a week later, he’s already loving the dream. And all the stress of London suddenly floods back. You may well empathise with Neil when Alice forces a ‘business divorce’ on him offering a generous retirement package while he willingly gives up his share, content to be left to his own devices.

But his laid back attitude hides a more sinister but pivotal plot twist telegraphed in the opening scene, blink and you’ll miss it. Michel Franco certainly does no favours to his native Mexico portraying it as a venally corrupt and dangerous place to visit. And we’re not prepared for the showcase showdown that brings Sundown to a grisly climax

VENICE FILM FESTIVAL 2021

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