SXSW FILM 2012
By Don Simpson | March 25, 2012
Director: Amy Seimetz
Writer: Amy Seimetz
Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley, Kit Gwin, AJ Bowen, Mark Reeb
Writer-director Amy Seimetz is purposefully secretive about her narrative debut, Sun Don’t Shine; and this is definitely one of those films that should be viewed with little to no information about the plot, so I will refrain from giving too much away…
Two young star crossed lovers, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley), are covered in sweat and grime as they drive across Florida in a car with no air conditioning. It is a brutally hot and humid summer, and they are trying desperately to stay clear of anyone’s radar. Crystal and Leo plow onward (towards what?) inside this claustrophobic pressure cooker that constantly teeters on the verge of combustion. Tensions and fears boil inside the restricted confines of the car as the couple wrestles with some really deep psychological shit.
Sun Don’t Shine is not technically a horror film, but it maintains the spine-tingling intensity of a horrible nightmare. Seimetz’s film is a brutally intense rollercoaster ride that takes its time in revealing the details of Crystal and Leo’s past. But the characters’ history does not really matter; neither does their future (if they do have a future it seems like it will be unavoidably bleak). Sun Don’t Shine exists in the here and now.
Sun Don’t Shine is about dealing with the consequences of rash decisions — more importantly, it is about how two distinct character types contend with those consequences. Crystal represents the essence of pure, unhinged manifestations of emotions; whenever she is not crying and/or screaming, we find her on the verge of crying and/or screaming. Acting solely upon instinct and feelings, Crystal is an untameable gusher who could explode at any given moment. She wears her fragility on her sleeves, but there is also a slight hint of the limitless complexities of her psyche. Leo is polar opposite to Crystal — he desperately tries to maintain his cool, calm and collected demeanor. Leo always pauses to think before he acts, he studies situations and develops long-range plans. His exterior epitomizes stoicism as Leo maintains a blank poker face and keeps his cards very close to his chest.
It is the conflicting personalities of Crystal and Leo that build and perpetuate the tension of their situation, and this is why their history does not necessarily matter. We know that their fiery attraction to each other is what initially drew these two characters together; but as we spend more time with Crystal and Leo, it grows increasingly obvious that it will not be healthy for them to remain together for much longer. The opening mud wrestling scene is only the beginning of their tumultuous relationship. Let’s just say it is all downhill from there.
Building upon the already nightmarish elements of the narrative, Sun Don’t Shine unfolds with the oblique stream of consciousness of a dream — such as when Terrence Malick-esque voiceovers follow the characters’ thoughts as they are lulled into daydreams by the ephemeral rhythms and patterns of the roadside imagery and the unbearably balmy Florida air. Sun Don’t Shine plays like a 1970s road movie, utilizing an experimental artfulness that is reminiscent of Two-Lane Blacktop, Badlands and Bonnie and Clyde. Similar to those films, Sun Don’t Shine is not necessarily a traditional narrative; the road movie elements are not used to propel the narrative forward, but to trap Crystal and Leo in a smothering and smoldering incapacious space. Their car is like a prison cell with an ever-changing view of the real/reel world; the car windows function like movie screens, dangling carrots of perceived freedom and success just out of Crystal and Leo’s reach. (The car also works as a figurative representation of the entrapment of Crystal and Leo by rigid socio-economic limitations. In other words, they will never know freedom because they cannot win their working class struggle.)
Going into Sun Don’t Shine, I assumed that I would love it because Kate Lyn Sheil (Green, Silver Bullets) and Kentucker Audley (Bad Fever) gave some of the best performances of 2011. With Sun Don’t Shine, Sheil and Audley up the ante by giving career-defining performances. (Audley may not consider himself to be an actor, but at this point I think Bad Fever and Sun Don’t Shine certainly prove otherwise.)
(Also check out Linc Leifeste’s 8/10 review of Sun Don’t Shine and our interview with Amy Seimetz, Kate Sheil and Kentucker Audley from SXSW 2012.)