Neil Bennett (Tim Roth) and his family are on vacation in Acapulco, when Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) gets a call that abruptly cuts their trip short: her mother back home in England is dying. After rushing to the airport and being waved through the queues by accommodating staff, Neil claims to have forgotten his passport. He tells Alice and the children to go on without him, that he’ll catch the next flight to London and meet them there. Yet, instead of going back to the resort to look for the missing document, Neil checks into a different hotel and spends the day drinking on the beach.

With Sundown, director Michel Franco competes against another film he produced (La Caja) for the Golden Lion of the 78th Venice film festival. Both tackle the issues of crime in Mexico, but in two very different ways.

Tim Roth, as usual, is captivating to watch. One’s eyes cling to his face in hopes of the tiniest stirring to be able to interpret what his character is thinking or feeling. Alas, he remains unreadable in his intentions, making Sundown is an utterly incalculable film. 

The runtime of only 83 minutes flies by, even though the plot is not effusively action-packed or fast-paced.

The information conveyed to the audience is sparse, an invitation to make one’s own connections, and draw (possibly false) conclusions. It is refreshing to see a film in which one have absolutely no idea what will happen next.

Franco manages to create a counterpart to the type of plot twist that has characterised mainstream cinema – the earth-shattering revelation that explains all the strangeness of this (depicted) reality. In a way, Sundown offers an anti-Shyamalan subversion of expectations: what the viewer reads into the character says more about them than it does about the character.

★★★☆☆

Selina Sondermann

Sundown does not have a UK release date yet.

For further information about the event visit the Venice Film Festival website here.

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