Strong drama about judgment and perception; sex, drinking.
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Sundown is a drama about a man (Tim Roth) who walks away from his family after a tragedy and starts a life of leisure on the beach in Mexico. It's a quiet, keenly-observed movie that's possibly meant to challenge viewers' perceptions and judgments. It includes two brief, violent shooting sequences, with guns, blood, and dead bodies shown. A man is hit in the head with a beer bottle, and someone collapses and falls down stairs. Death is discussed. There are graphic sex scenes, a topless woman is shown, and several fully naked men are seen in a prison shower. Language includes a few bursts of "f--k," "f---ing," and "motherf----r" and one "a--hole." Characters drink liberally throughout -- cocktails at first and then many, many beers -- but drunkenness and hangovers are rarely depicted.
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What's the Story?
In SUNDOWN, a wealthy family of four is on vacation in Mexico, relaxing in a luxurious hotel. Then Alice Bennett (Charlotte Gainsbourg) receives a call and learns that her mother is gravely ill. She decides to cut the vacation short, and orders her grown kids, Alexa (Albertine Kotting McMillan) and Colin (Samuel Bottomley), to start packing. At the airport, Neil (Tim Roth) rummages for his passport and mumbles that he forgot it. In the ensuing confusion, he slips away, catches a cab, and asks to be taken to a hotel ... any hotel. On the phone, he lies to Alice about how he's trying to get his passport situation squared away, but instead starts lazing on the beach, drinking beer, and hanging out with local shopgirl Berenice (Iazua Larios). What's going on with Neil?
Is It Any Good?
This quietly sharp, deeply observant movie is about human nature, both the characters' and the audience's. It plays with our judgment and preconceived notions with a confident, even-handed touch. Written and directed by Michel Franco, Sundown begins almost lazily, with scenes that seem unimportant. The family members sleep in the sun, swim, float in the pool, drink cocktails, etc. They eat dinner and argue about a game and try not to look at their phones. The trick here is that Franco wants us to assume what their actual relationship is, and it's likely that most will guess wrong. It's on us to keep checking and rechecking our assumptions and how they relate to what's actually happening.
The movie's opening scenes are merely a test for what comes later. Can we retain sympathy for Neil after he's run out on his family, avoided a funeral, and shirked his duties (even after Alice specifically asked him for help)? Can we retain sympathy for him as he begins to live a life of ease and pleasure? It helps to employ Ted Lasso's "Be curious, not judgmental." Perhaps Neil is dealing with some kind of fear surrounding death or funerals? Something else? Either way, Sundown keeps viewers on their toes, with a rhythm that both relaxes and shocks. It pulses and breathes. And Roth, who's in nearly every shot, gives a bold, measured performance that's one of his best.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Sundown's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it exciting? Shocking? What did the movie show or not show to achieve this effect? Why is that important?
How is sex depicted here? What was your initial reaction to Neil and Berenice sleeping together, compared to what's actually happening?
How is drinking depicted? Is it glamorized, shown as an essential part of a life of leisure? Are there consequences for drinking? Why is that important?
Money doesn't seem to be very important to Neil, who gives up most of his inheritance. Do you feel the same way? Why, or why not?
How did you feel about Neil over the course of the movie? Did you ever decide that you didn't like him? Did you change your mind? Why?
- In theaters: February 4, 2022
- On DVD or streaming: February 17, 2022
- Cast: Tim Roth, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Iazua Larios
- Director: Michel Franco
- Studio: Bleecker Street Media
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 83 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, violence, language and some graphic nudity
- Last updated: October 8, 2022
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