"A slow boiling pot of tension"
THE "IMDB" PREMISE:
"Neil and Alice Bennett are the core of a wealthy family on vacation in Mexico until a distant emergency cuts their trip short. When one relative disrupts the family's tight-knit order, simmering tensions rise to the fore."
OUR [TO THE POINT] REVIEW:
Led by an incredibly subdued, yet emotionally driven performance from Tim Roth, Sundown escapes on a Mexican vacation with the Bennett’s, a wealthy yet somewhat disconnected family. Neil (Roth) and Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg), along with their teenage children, Colin (Samuel Bottomley) and Alexa (Albertine Kotting McMillan) have their holiday cut short when Alice receives the upsetting news that her mother has passed. Nonchalant throughout Alice’s pain, Neil abandons his family as they prepare to board a flight, choosing to stay in Mexico.
What follows is an interesting, and at times brooding, breakdown of a man who has a giant inferiority complex mixed with a dash of existentialism. Usually staring out from the sand to a clear blue horizon, Neil spends his days drinking silently, and it’s Roth’s minute expressions telling a much deeper story than the script is putting to screen. As Neil ignores calls and pleas from his grieving wife, he beings to engage in sexual encounters with a local (and much younger woman), where he lies about his family life. Roth’s portrayal of the stereotypical ‘midlife-crisis’, feels more sophisticated and layered due to his grounded performance. While the film focuses more on Neil, Gainsbourg as Alice, in her limited screen time, leaves a lasting impression with her emotionally devastating scenes.
As Sundown goes on, and more is revealed about the relationship between Neil and Alice (mainly Alice being the source of the family’s wealth), the tension simmers to a boil between the two, and irreversible events cause both of their lives to alter in dramatic ways. At points, some of the events that take place within Sundown can seem tonally misfitting, but based on the film’s location and circumstances, it all makes sense within this film's world.
No stranger to capturing the complicated aspects of high-society, writer and director Michel Franco (New Order) captures the beauty of sea-side Mexico and juxtaposes it against the brutality (both emotional and physical) of some of Sundown’s set pieces. While his script takes time to build up the tension, and can feel unevenly paced during the first act, the climax it builds to justifies the time spent building the characters and world around them.
A slow boiling pot of tension, alongside another great performance from Tim Roth makes Sundown an engaging watch. However, it is also one of those films where if you don’t enjoy a brooding atmosphere surrounding rich people going through mundane issues, it may not be a movie on your radar. But the complexities of the family dynamic subtly weave their way through the story to make for an interesting character piece.