Director: Jamison M. LoCascio
Writer: Adam Ambrosio, Jamison M. LoCascio
Cast: Liam Mitchell, Barbara Bleier, Austin Pendleton, Suzette Gunn, Juri Henley-Cohn, David Johnson
Seen on: 2.6.2018
Things look normal: Henry (Liam Mitchell) and Patricia (Barbara Bleier) are celebrating Patricia’s birthday with their friends – Patricia’s ex Julian (Austin Pendleton), Chris (David Johnson) and Ayden (Juri Henley-Cohn) who both have found surrogate parents in Henry and Patricia, and Ayden’s partner Breyanna (Suzette Gunn). As their talking turns to politics, it becomes clear, though, that tensions are high and ouright nuclear war seems just around the corner.
Usually nuclear war is used in films to conjure up a post-apocalyptic scenario, or it is used as a threat that the (action) heroes of the story have something to prevent. In Sunset’s case, it’s the backdrop for a thorough and thoughtful character study that stumbles sometimes, but remains engaging throughout.
It is clear that Ambrosio and LoCascio put a lot of thought and work into their characters and their lives. We get to learn a lot about them individually, but also how they relate to each other, making their decisions and thoughts and emotions very clear and understandable, making it easy to relate to all of them.
While I’m not a huge fan of “one size fits all” writing advice, in this case, though, I would have liked a little more show than tell. All the thinking about the characters translates into them explaining themselves a lot and telling stories about their lives that felt a little info-dumpy. Some things could have remained a little more implied, especially since the actors don’t always do the material complete justice, I’m afraid. It made the entire thing feel a little too unnatural for my taste.
I also struggled with a couple of tropes surrounding the two women in the cast – Breyanna gets a sad backstory regarding her fertility and Patricia’s disability is used as the biggest tragedy of her life, giving the former sexist overtones and the latter ableist ones (especially since it’s utter bullshit that Patricia wouldn’t be able to dance at all anymore – as we can see later in the film anyway). They do make sense for the characters as shown, but considering the bigger picture, the film should have steered around them.
There was another thing that didn’t work too well for me and that was Chris. While I did think that David Johnson’s performance was one of the consistently strongest in the film, I’m afraid that he felt too old for the role to me. If Chris had been in his early 20s, it would have made a lot more sense to me.
But altogether, I did enjoy walking alongside these characters for the duration of the film and considering with them what I would do in this situationl. It proves that you don’t need much action to show how devastating nuclear war can be, not only on a global, but also on a deepply personal scale.
Summarizing: Thoughtful and engaging.