We start with a wealthy family on a much-needed vacation in Mexico. The family consists of Neil (Tim Roth) and Alice Bennett (Charlotte Gainsbourg), along with their son Colin (Samuel Bottomley) and Alexa (Albertine Kotting McMillan). While on holiday, the family do little to entertain themselves other than swimming around, getting some sun, drinking heavily, and playing board games occasionally. We also learn that Alice struggles to switch off from her work life and focus on the family, and Neil generally keeps to himself, even acting somewhat bored and sluggish.
Soon, Alice receives a phone call that alters the entire family holiday in a big way. The family must pack everything up and take the next flight out, but Neil claims he cannot make the flight and gives reasoning to his family. The results leave Neil alone in Mexico to do as he pleases, but his wild and carefree choices will soon have major consequences that will permanently alter not only himself but also the lives of his family.
Sundown is best described as a heavy drama film. Despite this, Neil’s (Tim Roth) carefree and somewhat selfish behaviour had me grinning at the start of the film and tricked into thinking perhaps I was in for a dark comedy. Naturally, my thinking process changed dramatically and the atmosphere altered once Alice received a personal phone call. As a drama film, Sundown becomes heavier as the film progresses. Not a lot of details are given to the audience, and not everything makes a great deal of sense at first, including the strange and mysterious choices made by Neil.
Visually, I found this film to be flawless and wonderful. Each scene is filled with stunning imagery and is shot in stunning locations. The character’s emotions and expressions are effortlessly captured. The sound design and effects are pleasing, with zero complaints as everything is crisp and clear. Tension and drama on-screen are presented well, to the point that this film even made me jump out of my seat during key moments. Actor Tim Roth (once again) doesn’t disappoint fans, and I found his character something different compared to the actor’s past films.
Pacing is certainly a hard one to tackle. It’s most certainly slow-paced, but I found myself quite invested in everything on display. Plus, I was eager to understand better why Neil made certain choices, and I had to know the outcomes of the more radical changes in the family. While I found watching it all unfold entertaining, I am saddened to say the film seems to dry up around the third act and loses some of the enjoyable momentum previously built. Explanation of events that occurred on-screen could also be rather complex to process, and the ending (without spoilers) feels unexpected and abrupt.
Overall, this is a heavy drama film which I found quite unexpected. It’s also a film that feels mysterious as it tells its story at a slow pace with intense moments of both tension and heartbreak. While the pace is slow, I was still highly engaged and invested, but I can’t deny the third act loses some momentum and even has portions that seem complex and abrupt. Visually, this film doesn’t disappoint; everything on-screen is a wonderful experience. The same can be said about actor Tim Roth who also delivers something new in his career. Sundown (2021) is Available in Australian Cinemas from July 7th.