Neil (Tim Roth) tags along with his sister Allison (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her two teenage children for a luxury vacation in Mexico. Their idyll is interrupted by terrible news. Neil and Allison’s mother has taken ill and is dying. The family rushes to the airport but Neil has to double back because he forgot his passport. Or did he? Neil makes no effort to recover his old passport or get a new one. Instead he checks into a sketchy motel in a dangerous neighborhood, makes friends with the locals and starts a romantic relationship with a gorgeous shopgirl Bernice (Iazua Larios). Even when he learns that his mother has passed away and his sister, with whom he runs a successful pig slaughtering business, needs him back home in England to arrange the funeral, Neil cuts off communication. Neil knows what he should do but either refuses to or can’t compel himself to follow through. Will Neil’s complacency, willful or not, come at a cost?
Directed by Michel Franco, Sundown is a modern day Bartleby, the Scrivener demonstrating, in this case, the severe consequences of inaction. Roth is superb as Neil. The character holds the audience and the other people in his world at arm’s length making him equal parts frustrating and fascinating. The movie took a dark turn I didn’t quite expect.
A deeply disturbing meditation on the consequences of inaction; Sundown is a must-see.
Sundown was part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival Special Presentations slate.