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.
It’s Marianne’s (Naian González Norvind) wedding day and as her elite circle of friends and family celebrate this joyous event, chaos and disorder descends upon their quiet community. The tables have turned in nearby Mexico City. Protestors armed with green paint are taking over. The disenfranchised are now in control and they’re exacting revenge on the privileged. There is a battle going on between the poor and the rich, the brown and the white. When Marianne leaves her reception to help former employee Rolando, she narrowly escapes the orchestrated attack on her home but is soon captured by a violent militia who are hell bent on torturing the rich and draining them of their wealth. In this war between the haves and the have nots, who will win?
Directed by Michel Franco, New Order/Nuevo orden is a brutal and unflinching study in social and racial inequality. Franco wrote the film four years ago but it feels so prescient that it might as well have been written this year. According to an interview with AFI Fest, Franco initially delayed the release of New Order/Nuevo orden to 2021 but changed his mind when he learned of the Black Lives Matter protests back in June. Franco calls the film a “cautionary tale” and while some aspects of the film are strictly dystopian, the latter half in particular is frighteningly realistic.
New Order/Nuevo orden is gritty and real. The film was shot on location in Mexico City, uses subtle visual effects and over 3,000 extras, all of which give the film a sense of merciless authenticity.
Social inequality is a huge problem in Mexico and there are some excellent films that explore this subject including Roma and Las Ninas Bien. New Order/Nuevo orden breaks down the protective shield of wealth and status to lay bare the true cost of privilege.
“It shouldn’t be fun to watch all this violence.”
Director Michel Franco
New Order/Nuevo orden was screened as part of the 2020 virtual AFI Fest.