Sun Don't Shine

Sun Don't Shine


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The sun don't shine but you may find it hard to breathe, such is the tension of Amy Seimetz’s impressive debut feature, which uses the oppressive, sultry heat of Florida to accentuate the over-bearing atmosphere.

Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) are lovers on a road trip. But when we meet them, caught in a near-hysterical row in the middle of nowhere, it's immediately obvious this is no sun-dappled, Disney venture which sees all good children live happily ever after. If Crystal's strung-out state and the unreliability of their car aren't enough, there's also the pressing issue of a a shared sinister secret.

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Seimetz's emphasis is on questions not answers and her skewed perspective, both in terms of character viewpoints and camera angles, is unsettling. As in Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan's Cactus - with which this shares some DNA - we find ourselves stranded alone with Crystal and Leo and invited to try to piece together how they came to be where they are. Crystal is a woman on the edge. Petulant, fearful and childlike, her driving force appears to be lust for Leo, even as the demons of post-traumatic stress scratch their claws across her memory. Leo, on the other hand, seems disturbingly calm, as though he reached the edge and skipped right over it into a place where he is not the man he was before. Seimitz gives virtually all the scripting to Crystal, although her stream-of-consciousness observations offer little in the way of insight to her soul. When we hear the most from Leo it is through snatches of conversations that have been had, played over their current plight. Even there, though the pair of them talk, communication is absent.

It's a bold choice to forcefeed us the feelings of Crystal, so that we get a real sense of how Leo feels to find himself hitched to this emotional juggernaut, although there is still a sense that she may, possibly, be as much sinned against as sinning. Seimetz lets the atmosphere sweat, while Jay Keitel's camera catches the furnace of Florida, the grainy look making even the film itself feel as though it is slowly baking and Ben Lomond's creepy, music box driven score adding to the sense of dislocation. Crystal may be obsessed with mermaids who, of course, can breathe anywhere, but everything about her life is in danger of suffocating her.

Seimetz loses some ground in the middle of the film, as the lovers apart are never quite as compelling as they are together and the subplot, though smart, feels under-explored and lacking in pace. Still, her direction is strong and always interesting, and like many an actor-turned-director before her she elicits fabulous performances from her cast. Sheil is mesmerising, bringing an almost Tilda Swinton-like power to Crystal's gradual unhinging, and though Audley has a more distilled role, he gives shape to Leo's emotions even as Seimetz refuses to fully explain how he came to be in this predicament.

Seimetz has crafted the latest in a growing trend for American indies to leave East and West coast urban romance behind and go in search of trouble down south.

Reviewed on: 20 Jun 2012
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Sun Don't Shine packshot
Tension between two lovers escalates as one of them seems to be losing her mind.

Director: Amy Seimetz

Writer: Amy Seimetz

Starring: AJ Bowen, Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley, Kit Gwin

Year: 2012

Runtime: 79 minutes

Country: US


EIFF 2012

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