Acapulco’s picturesque beauty and terrifying desperation converge in writer-director Michel Franco’s psychological thriller “Sundown.” Here, Franco reunites with Tim Roth, who plays Neil Bennett, heir to the UK meatpacking fortune who is on vacation with his sister Alice (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and family. Cinematographer Yves Cape presents a steady stream of wide shots and abstract-leaning frames that constantly force the viewer to prioritize macro over micro.
Franco chooses to portray Acapulco from the perspective of the wealthy white foreigner; here are the lives of brown natives—bad guys and Neil’s beautiful girlfriend, Berenice (Iazua Larios) alike—gone unexamined. Still, Franco manages to wave a not-so-fine finger at the audience, reminding them to check their assumptions about Neil while keeping that main character’s raison d’etre completely secret. Conclusion: “Sundown” feels more like a one-note thinking exercise than a fully detailed story.
The problem here is not Roth’s delivery; neither the slow pace of the film nor the lack of points. On the contrary, the script feels weak and ill-conceived in a movie that sticks out noticeably to the surface. Neil is nothing if not short – the number of lines he has could be up to a paragraph in the entire movie. We can barely look at him; His first close-up doesn’t appear until almost halfway through the movie.
In the end, what “Sundown” has had the most success with is the look of Acapulco. Finally, Cape captured how the sun hits this spot of the Pacific Coast a dozen different ways. If only the same amount of light had been poured into any of the characters. Without it, an Acapulco sunburn would probably evoke more emotion than “Sundown.”
Graphic violence was rated R for sexual content. Working time: 1 hour 23 minutes. In movie theaters.