Film Review: “Sundown”

Starring: Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Iazua Larios
Directed by: Michel Franco
Rated: R
Running Time: 83 minutes
Beecker Street Media

Neil (Roth) and Allison (Gainsbourg) appear to be a happy couple on vacation in Mexico. Two kids are with them as they go to and from the beach, enjoying the sun and warmth. Then, Allison receives a call about trouble back home. The family packs, dashes to the airport, and then all of a sudden Neil says, “I forgot my passport.” No problem as he says he’ll take the next flight home and gets into a cab. But he doesn’t go back to their hotel nor has he seemingly lost his passport. What happens and why is what “Sundown” is about.

To really become engaged with this film, you need to know as little as possible. In fact, the less you know, the more my opening paragraph reveals that not everything is as it seems. Neil seems apathetic about the family tragedy and we aren’t sure why. He checks into a cheap motel, he lounges around on the beach sipping on drink after drink, and then finds a cute young woman to bring back to his cheap motel. Well, wait, what about Allison and the kids? What about that family tragedy? What’s going on?

So even if you begin to understand what is happening, because Neil doesn’t appear to be the most trustworthy and definitely least likable person in the film, are we really seeing reality? Is reality Allison and the family tragedy or is the reality the one Neil is telling this young woman? There are certain truths that are revealed as the movie goes on, but the crux of the film centers around this event. This family death back home leads to the death of whatever was happening between Neil and Allison, or it’s possibly on a more personal level with Neil. Is Neil frustrated or relieved?

“The Abandon” withholds a lot of information, expecting audiences to do some mental digging on their own. For some audiences, that could easily backfire since there are a lot of times in this film where nothing happens. I’m not saying that Roth isn’t using that nothingness to command the screen, but there really is nothing happening. That’s going to frustrate some to the point where they will no longer care about the conclusion and by the time the film ends, I’m curious if Franco even knew how to say what he wanted to say. I also realize this review is probably frustrating because much like the director, I’m not telling you much.

What I am trying to say, without spoiling the film, is that this is a tough film to enjoy, much less a tough film to fully comprehend. That’s not me saying this film is on another intellectual level, I just feel the messaging is crafted in such a way that you’re most likely going to be mad that you watched the film. While I wasn’t mad about the ending, I certainly felt let down that such a meticulously crafted and well-acted movie seemed to ultimately say nothing when it felt like it wanted to tell me everything.