Between Sundown and Bergman Island, it is refreshing, hopeful even, to see Tim Roth on a resurgence. He has taken time away from the big screen of quality to craft three seasons of Tin Star and reunite with Pulp Fiction alumni Uma Thurman in The Con is On. The con was certainly on for that plane crash of drivel, but it was those few years in the cold, dark times of borderline depravity that Roth appears to have clicked into the next phase of his career. A gear shift has been spotted, and it starts, delightfully and cautiously with the drama-fuelled Sundown. Apathy in the face of fear guides Sundown with horrendously good and unflinching detail.
Contemplative at the best of times, Sundown takes pride in the framing of its isolation and the lead character that revels in it. Director Michel Franco successfully realises that most hope to see a rift or divide between the wealthy elite. Their suffering is justified and their trip ruined, unlike French Exit which hopes to claw at the allure of regal living when not a penny is owned. Sundown takes Roth and Charlotte Gainsbourg to new levels as a brother and sister duo enjoying a holiday that appears set on disaster after disaster. It’s the compassionless quiet that comes from Roth’s leading role that marks Sundown as a feature that creates unrest in its visual beauties and extraordinary surroundings.
Instead of passive or indirect anger, there is a sincere longing that features in Sundown. A real desire to be where these characters are. To eat the foods, drink the wines and bask in the sun that they’re gifted with. That intimacy is through character work, and perhaps why such features as Force Majeure and French Exit fail to adapt to their surroundings of privilege and holidaying farce. A brooding contemplation crawls over Sundown, which relies on the upper-class lifestyle and the rejection of it. Everybody a human, nobody a hero is the mantra Sundown takes. For all its novelties and appearances, there is an egalitarian underbelly that inflicts pain on everyone equally. Roth handles that burden with such incredible focus in what may be one of his best performances. Barely a word is spoken, it all relies on his mannerisms, his actions and his desires. Steered well by Franco, it’s the culmination of great performances and static direction done well.
An equivalent experience to the experimental fascination Sundown provides is the Abel Ferrara-directed Siberia. Both take a great actor with a plethora of roles under their belt, contemplating the existence and perception of a director and using the knowable intimacy of the star as a mouthpiece. It is as stunning as it would appear, and beautiful landscapes present that inevitable contrast Franco reaches for so consistently throughout Sundown. The sun may set on Roth’s Neil Bennett, but it appears to rise again for Roth’s career. New longevity of contemplative reflection, as Willem Dafoe experienced with Ferrara. But this will be a one-off for Roth, who returns to screens with a Ron Perlman action film, a supporting role in a Rebecca Hall drama and The Misfits with Pierce Brosnan. Silver linings and that. If it’s all downhill from here, then Roth should be exceptionally proud of his work on Sundown.