Film Reviews

Sun Don't Shine Amy Seimetz

Rating - 7/10

Artistic entrepreneur (writer, producer, editor, actress) Amy Seimetz's directorial debut, Sun Don't Shine, comes across as a Badlands (1973) for the twenty-first century.  Opening with an emotionally charged struggle, the film is manipulated through Jay Keitel's 16mm handheld cinematography into a hypnotic fever dream of Central and Southern Florida.  Concerning two romantically involved outlaws with a half-formed plan to dispose of a former husband's body, the film eschews the neo-noir/Southern Gothic mould, as leading woman Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil)'s unpredictability parallels the film's intriguing course, drawing closer to psychosis with each passing minute.  Seimetz's ability to parcel out information leisurely additionally aids the film's atmosphere (Seimetz says she has "no interest in exposition at all"); undoubtedly, the story in Sun Don't Shine, as the aforementioned Malick reference indicates, is one audiences have seen unfold in cinema many times over.  The dynamic between polar opposite personalities, Crystal and Leo (Kentucker Audley), propels it, as the star-crossed lovers descend into the depths of the wetlands.  They've committed a certain unspeakable act together and now have to protect themselves from the suspicion of police and others by concocting coinciding alibis.  Of course, with Crystal's tendency towards fervid outbursts, the task proves to be difficult.

Even considering Crystal's frantic, untrustworthy behavior that Seimetz has compared to Barbara Loden in Wanda (1970) or Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981), her character never feels exploited, because the film harnesses atmosphere to reflect a prevailing affection amidst total confusion.  Its stylistically detached voiceover slowly reveals the degree to which the two have committed to one another.  While voiceover is a tricky device to employ properly, Seimetz intelligently and consistently uses it as a recollective tool for introspection.  Terrence Malick's non-linear monologues often bear the air of poetic grandiosity, but Seimetz cuts colloquial dialogues (absent environmental sound) over washed out and primarily pastoral images to magnify the sense of impending loss.  The characters are doomed, but Sun Don't Shine invests a kind of apocalyptic beauty into its tone.  Like their half-formed plan to exonerate themselves, Crystal reveals an inadequate escapist dream of building a house together in Mexico or North Carolina, but without the real means to bring this hope to realization.  As the course of the film unfolds, it appears their love is the only constant that has any chance of pulling them from the sweltering southern hell; the environmental temperatures effectively exacerbate the moral descent in a certain way that dares comparison to the Coen Brothers' surrealist Barton Fink (1991).

Prefacing her interview with Seimetz, Hillary Weston of BlackBook Magazine calls the film "both visceral and expressionistic."  Indeed, there is a distinctive and sincere emotional documentation that is uncharacteristically assured for a debut.  Of course, Seimetz does not prove to be infallible, stumbling midway with an embarrassingly filmed sex scene that releases the pent-up tension that formerly amplified the film's mood.  Sun Don't Shine is more engaging when the psychologically provocative photography dilates its confrontationally honest language.  The catalyst for the film is reported to have been Seimetz's own recurring dream in which she wished to conceal the murder of someone directly connected to her current lover: "I find that level of love and wanting to do that for somebody very beautiful.  But I also find it really dangerous and interesting."  The film utilizes this volatility through the spontaneity of the road trip where every turn in the route alters Crystal and Leo's course further and further from what they once idealized in voiceover.  In the film's final act, the two return to this dream by desperately echoing one another: "I'd do anything for you."  Much like Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, a film where Seimetz plays the principal character, Kris, Sun Don't Shine is a spiritual companion led by passion over precision.