Directed by Michel Franco
Starring Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg & Iazua Larios
Once again, I sat in a poorly attended theater and entered into “Optimum Immersion.” This time, however, not only was it a film I knew nothing about but a director whose work I was unfamiliar with as well. The poster informed me that two of my favorite living actors would be predominantly featured, but, other than that, I had no idea what I was going to be watching.
Sundown opens with what seems to be a wealthy family on vacation in a tropical location. By the second act, only one of the four members of the family remains in this location.
Beautifully shot – like the cinematic equivalent of an enticing tourist promotion – the audience and our main character, Neil Bennett, explore the small world of Acapulco, taking time to get to know a few locals and enjoy some picturesque sunsets. Conflict happens, (as it does with most stories), and watching Tim Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg navigate those rough waters in their own unique ways is a tribute to each actor’s prowess. The story is not one that can be easily anticipated, and the writing skills of director Michel Franco are of a supreme quality. Sundown tells the story it needs to tell in less than 90 minutes. Impact through brevity is something most American filmmakers can learn from this Mexican director.
New-to-me actor Lazua Larios is our conduit to Acapulco as Berenice, a local bodega clerk. (Do they call them bodega’s in Mexico?) Her relationship with Neil is the focus of a warm second act that fueled my anticipation for emotion once the third act began.
The third act completely inverted my voyeurism. All of a sudden, I was assessing my own life through the story. What would I do in Neil’s situation? What is legacy? What is truly important in a life well lived? These thought-provoking questions can only come across as genuinely empathetic from a skilled director, so now it’s time to seek out his other six films starting with 2009’s Daniel and Ana.
If my two favorite Mexican directors Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón churn out A’s & B’s consistently, then this, (the first of many Michel Franco films I will watch), is a B.