SXSW FILM 2012
By Linc Leifeste | March 12, 2012
Director: Amy Seimetz
Writer: Amy Seimetz
Starring: Kate Lyn Sheil, Kentucker Audley, AJ Bowen, Kit Gwin, Mark Reeb
The folks behind Sun Don’t Shine intentionally brought their film into the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival without allowing much in the way of plot to be revealed in advance. It was a smart move, for while there’s not necessarily a huge plot twist, the film is best enjoyed if you don’t know at the beginning why you are where you are or where exactly you’re headed.
Equal parts Badlands and Two-Lane Blacktop (while in no way derivative of either), Sun Don’t Shine tells the story of young lovers Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) as they trek across the state in an unreliable older car, on the move after having done something very bad. Shot in summertime St. Petersburg, Florida with the grainiest film stock available, the film perfectly captures the oppressive heat and sweltering humidity that only serves to stoke up the anxiety and tension inherent in the nightmarish story.
Kate Lyn Sheil’s performance as Crystal is nothing short of brilliant, capturing the essence of a character who is pure unhinged emotion. She does this in the deliverance of her dialogue but possibly even more so in her moments of silence, her facial expressions and body language strikingly conveying all of her wounded self-doubt and rage. Kentucker Audley holds his own next to Sheil, completely inhabiting Leo with his futile attempts to counter Crystal’s emotional reactionary nature with some kind of rational and coherent planning. The film manages to leave the viewer guessing at the motivations of the pair as well as whom, if anyone, is calling the shots.
Along the way there are several interactions with outside forces, whether it’s the “highway angel” (AJ Bowen), who stops to help the pair when their car is broken down on the side of the road or the boat renter (Mark Reeb), who has the misfortune of crossing paths with Leo late in the film. It is during these moments that you realize powerfully that Crystal and Leo are operating in a world of their own, having cast their lot outside of society, and the tension is palpable as you wonder if the outsider will manage to escape back into their world as they know it. The most harrowing example (and probably my favorite part of the film) is when Leo pays a visit to Terri, an old fling of his, in order to establish an alibi, only to find that Crystal is not willing to share their world with another woman.
There’s no doubt that Amy Seimetz and crew perfectly capture the claustrophobic and deadly world of Crystal and Leo, it’s just a matter of whether the viewer is interested in entering therein. While the poster for the film says “Good Hearts Can Do Bad Things,” how much “good” is in either character’s heart is up for debate. Viewing the film is an intense experience, and to be honest I walked out of the theater going back and forth about how I felt but never doubting that I’d just witnessed some masterful storytelling.
(Also check out our SXSW 2012 interview with Amy Seimetz, Kate Sheil and Kentucker Audley.)