Review by Dan Skip Allen
There is something to be said for an understated role in a movie. They don't have to be big and loud and boisterous to be effective. A more subtle performance can go a long way at times. Tim Roth gives a very subtle performance in Sundown that anchors this film.
Tim Roth plays a man who is vacationing in Acapulco, Mexico with his family when his sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) gets a phone call about a tragedy in the family. She decides to pack up her things and get the kids and get on a plane and go back home very quickly. When it's time to get on the plane, Roth's character makes up a story about forgetting his passport at the hotel. He ends up not getting on the plane with his family.
Sundown has a main character that is very quiet and doesn't say much. Even when people are yelling incessantly at him, he remains very calm and collected. Roth's performance owes a lot to the script because the script, written by Michael Franco, who is also the director of the film, makes Roth's character very mysterious because he doesn't say much. His lack of speaking creates tension in the film which in turn makes all that drama that happens all the more powerful.
It's not a spoiler to say Roth's character is having a midlife crisis and many men his age such as myself can relate in a way. He is just sick of the family drama his sister, Gainsbourg, creates. He falls in love with a local woman and pretty much all they do is sit by the ocean and watch the waves go back and forth and people watch. He also makes friends with a local cab driver. Money, which he has, can buy you this freedom. Most people don't have this luxury.
Michel Franco tried to put the viewer such as myself into the shoes of this man, but it's not that easy. He just forgets his family and stays in sunny Acapulco and shacks up with this local woman in a hotel. That is not very admirable. Sure we all have problems in life, but we can't just abandon our families in crisis and vacation just because we want to forget everything and everybody. This man is very shallow in that regard. Even though (to some extent) I'm empathetic to his cause, it's not right.
Franco does a few things right with this film and one of those is its runtime. This is a quick eighty-three minutes. It doesn't drag this sad story out for a very long time. It gets to the point of the story and has resolutions for its characters. The acting by all is very serviceable, especially Roth and Gainsbourg. The look of the film is very nice as well. How could you make Acapulco look very bad?
Sundown has some admirable qualities to it. The acting is good and the look of the film is beautiful. The runtime is a plus so the film doesn't drag out the somber story. The overall story is the problem with the film. Some people may relate to this aging man going through a midlife crisis. I didn't though because the fact that he had money and he does whatever he wants isn't very realistic to people such as myself. Most people aren't independently wealthy like him. Most people struggle to make ends meet and that is why they have mental illnesses, marital problems, or even work problems. Money doesn't solve all problems in the world, it just makes them.
Sundown hits theaters on January 28.