Review by Katherine Follett
Posted on 10 May 2012
Source Projected DVD
Categories The 2012 Independent Film Festival Boston
Sun Don’t Shine is simple and completely stripped-down. There is a hysterical young woman, a man, an old car, an ominous object in the trunk, and the relentlessly stifling Florida sunshine. Out of these few ingredients, director and writer Amy Seimetz creates a small but haunting and inescapable portrait of desperation.
Huge credit must go to the actress who carries much of the film, Kate Lyn Sheil. Sheil plays Crystal, a woman who is unstable at the best of times, and this is not the best of times. The body in the trunk is that of her abusive husband, and she and her boyfriend Leo, who is presumably the killer, must dispose of it and come up with some sort of cover story. Crystal’s response to any stress is to distract herself and Leo (Kentucker Audley) in any way possible—random childhood musings, sexual come-ons, weepy hysteria. Sheil’s childlike face and childish demeanor emphasize that this is a character helpless before her own emotions. Crystal sparks instant pity, discomfort, sympathy, and revulsion in people around her—including the viewer. We can’t help but empathize with Leo when he loses patience with her, and perhaps we even feel some understanding of how her husband resorted to violence.
Things deepen when the couple tries to enlist the help of an acquaintance of Leo’s, an acquaintance whom Crystal jealously suspects is an old lover. When she proves her suspicion right, Sheil’s performance suddenly shifts from pathetic to terrifying. Crystal appears outside the woman’s window with a face of single-minded, conscience-less fury. Leo has to physically wrestle her away, and we realize that Crystal herself may in fact be responsible for the body in the trunk. No longer a victim, a mere bystander to a crime we’ve come to accept as almost justified, Crystal is clearly a killer. The implications for Leo are obvious.
Though the story is intense, the film focuses mostly on character and atmosphere, putting two volatile personalities in a confined space and under visible heat until they explode. The cinematography does an excellent job of trapping the viewer in the nearly surreal featurelessness of South Florida. Rich 16mm film recreates the heavy air inside an unreliable automobile with a rotting corpse in the trunk. Though the film is sometimes repetitive, feeling like not quite enough is going on in each scene, the performances keep us watching until the surreal ending, when Crystal sneaks into a kitschy mermaid show, a relic of her childhood when escape into fantasy was a workable response to her problems. Even as Crystal just sits and watches, Seimetz and Sheil create a gripping portrait of a woman at – and eventually over – the edge.
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