Sometimes the best way to face adversity in life is to turn it into a comedic feature-length film. Writer/director Brendan Boogie tackles the subject of dementia, telling a personal story about a family, whose bond is tested when its patriarch suffers from dementia.
Sundown is the story of the Shea family’s youngest son, Dewey (Grayson Powell). A loser by day and gambler by night, Dewey is down on his luck and agrees to help his mother feminist author Clara Gregg-Shea (Zele Avradopoulos), care for Dewey’s father, Solomon (Paul Kandarian), who suffers from the early stages of dementia.
The term “sundown” is when the behavior of persons who have Alzheimer’s or dementia, changes once evening arrives. They become frustrated, tense and have difficulty distinguishing between dreams and reality.
“…’sundown’ is when the behavior of persons who have Alzheimer’s or dementia, changes once evening arrives.”
Dewey’s arrangement with his mother is to watch his father, Solomon, during the sundown hours. This allows Clara to return to her job as a professor of feminism at the local university. It is Dewey’s responsibility to see that his father is safe during the late hours. When they sleep, Solomon is attached to a proximity alarm that sounds off when he leaves his bed.
Complicating Dewey’s life is his sister, Tracy (Caitlin Graham) and her husband, Todd (Nick Chamber). Tracy and Todd have a hard time helping with Solomon because they care for their own special needs daughter, Piper (Nina Kremer). Tracy still sees Dewey as an adult child and is bothered that their mother has put faith in Dewey to be responsible. Tracy is just waiting for Dewey to screw up so that she can be right.
Being the responsible son is working for Dewey, but only for a day. Dewey is developing cabin fever being tethered to his father. Thinking his father is asleep, Dewey runs out to a local poker game. There he meets Chelsea (Anna Rizzo) a better-than-Dewey poker player and they strike-up a quick romance. When Dewey returns home, his father is missing. Can Dewey be the good son, he wants to be?
Sundown is a comedy loosely based on the experiences of writer/director Brendan Boogie’s father. It is clear that Sundown is Boogie’s passion project. Rather than go the slow emotionally draining route of a drama, Boogie shares a part of himself through humor.
“It is clear that Sundown is Boogie’s passion project…”
There are real moments, too. When Solomon talks about seeing his mother, Clara reminds him that his mother passed several years ago. Solomon begins to sob either from loss or embarrassment. During a caregiver support group, Clara becomes defensive over a few mistakes she may have made caring for Solomon.
I have struggled over recommending Sundown. There are not many films about caring for family members struggling with dementia. The film also scores points being a personal story. As a film, the acting is very stiff, and the dialogue does not feel natural. Even though the story is personal, the story of the unreliable son making good is not original and predictable. I also have a small pet peeve about poker games that don’t feel like poker games. In the case of Sundown, when you do not have enough chips to cover a bet, you go all-in. You don’t throw in the keys to your car to keep the hand going.
The story about dementia is ultimately about a family that comes together when one member is in most need. If the story intrigues you at all, by all means, see Sundown.
Sundown (2017) Written and directed by Brendan Boogie. Starring Grayson Powell, Zele Avradopolos, Paul Kandarian, Caitlin Graham, Anna Rizzo.
2.5 out of 5