Sundown (2021)

Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Iazua Larios, Henry Goodman,
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.
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-02-18 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Michel Franco, Director:
  • Eréndira Núñez Larios, Cristina Velasco, Producer:


7 / 10

a bucket and a beach

Greetings again from the darkness. How quickly we make assumptions and judge the actions of others. We all do it, and writer-director Michel Franco (NEW ORDER, 2020) seizes on this common human trait in this unconventional film centered on a man who simply doesn't act like we expect him to. Because of our tendencies to judge, Franco is able to confound, even frustrate us, by slowly revealing details that we wouldn't have guessed.

To pull this off, the filmmaker needs and receives a tremendous performance from Tim Roth. The actor takes a much different approach than his usual animated tic style, and here is exceedingly understated ... so much so that we are a bit uncomfortable watching him. He rarely speaks and seems distant from the others. The film opens with a family vacationing in Acapulco. They are clearly well-to-do folks, as evidenced by the stunning resort suite. Neil (Mr. Roth) and Allison Bennett (Charlotte Gainsbourg) are on holiday with two older kids Colin (Samuel Bottomley) and Alexa (Albertine Kotting McMillan). Our assumptions about what we are seeing are in full bloom, and that continues when Allison receives a call about a family tragedy.

As the family frantically packs and rushes to the airport for an early flight home, Neil claims to have left his passport at the hotel and will catch the next flight home. Instead, the film and Neil take a much different path ... one that leads to Neil becoming even more withdrawn. He moves into a cheap motel and spends his time lounging on the beach with a bucket of Coronas by his side. He befriends Berenice, a local played by Iazua Larios. Yet even then, Neil puts forth little effort to communicate. We keep asking, "What is wrong with him?" "What is he doing?" These are the same questions Allison asks when she returns to confront him.

As viewers, we are constantly revising the conclusions we previously jumped to as the details slowly eek out. This will likely cause frustration for some viewers, especially since Neil is not a likable guy - he just gives us nothing to relate to. Checking out from the pressures of one's life is never as romantic as it might sound, yet Neil seems extremely comfortable with his decisions. Class and cultural differences are at play here, and it's possible Roth and the film are at their best when answers aren't being provided. At least that's when the most tension is present. Franco's film is an unusual one, and certainly not one that everyone will appreciate, but he and Roth give us plenty to digest.

Opening in select theaters on January 28, 2022.

1 / 10

We have entered a new dawn of filmmaking...

...and it's boring as hell. Get used to it. Nearly every film, certainly every American film, over the last decade has been a mindless exercise in pointless, derivative snore-telling. The days of cinematic risk taking, ballsy directors, and studios not giving a flying pc eff about woke crybabies trying to cancel the only talent on the planet is over. The future is bleak. It leaves only two real options; find an OnlyFans T&A lifeline, or picket to demand yevraH s'nietsnieW release from the Big House to start entertaining the troops again.

10 / 10

My kind of film.

As one critic said "pitch perfect" and it is. The critic also claimed he laughed several times, I did not. At first the family set up works and you go along with it until you find it's otherwise. Misdirection and the slow reveal at its best. Tim Roth gives a superb performance leaving you to wonder and even understand his character although you don't know what the reason for his apparent disengagement is as you the viewer attempt to fill in the blanks. A film so worth seeing but unfortunately likely to be dismissed or misunderstood by many.

2 / 10

Crushingly dull

A second Franco stinker after his nihilistic New Order. Crushingly dull. Mostly we watch Roth's character drink beer at the beach or by a pool, and feel zero connection to him or the threadbare plot.

8 / 10

Subtle undercurrents at play on the beach in Acapulco

I saw Sundown at the London Film Festival having been impressed by the director's "New Order" last year, though both films were made roughly at the same time. Tim Roth gives a magnificent understated performance of a man whose behaviour breaks with expected norms, asking us to imagine his motives. He subtlety of the director gradually and naturally reveals circumstances that may overturn our assumptions. The film has humour, violence, drama, and asks us to imagine what we do ourselves in he same circumstances. On top of these roiling undercurrents there are contrasted the beautiful but exclusive high-end beach resort with the crowded lively (and deadly) beach that the locals inhabit. Excellent supporting performances from Charlotte Gainsbourg and the others round out a thought provoking and well-executed film.