In Sunset, Henry (Liam Mitchell) and his wife, Patricia (Barbara Bleier) return from Patricia’s birthday dinner to their rural home outside of New York City. As the couple enters their darkened home, good friends, Chris (David Johnson), Julian (Austin Pendleton), and couple Ayden (Juri Henley-Cohn) and Breyanna (Suzette Gunn) are there for Patricia’s surprise party. Gathered around the living room, everyone proclaims their love and admiration for Patricia. Oh, and two days earlier, Los Angeles was destroyed by a terrorist’s portable nuclear bomb. This revelation comes in at the 20-minute mark.
From writer/director Jamison M. LoCascio, Sunset is the story of six close friends resolving those last remaining issues with one another while nuclear annihilation is looming over their heads. Chris is the local loner, who found a home and friendship thanks to Henry, a veteran with mild PTSD.
Henry’s relationship with Patricia is slightly strained due to a hip injury she suffered, and being elderly the injury leaves her unable to help herself or Henry. Unbeknownst to Henry, Patricia has gotten particularly close to her friend Julian.
“…six close friends resolving those last remaining issues with one another while nuclear annihilation is looming…”
Ayden owes everything to Henry, who helped him get on the right side of the tracks. Ayden and Breyanna are a new couple with hopes of having a child soon, but in what kind of world?
With the news that nuclear missiles headed straight to New York, our friends must decide what to do as mandatory evacuations in effect. For their own reasons, Patricia, Chris, and Breyanna don’t want to leave, in spite of pressure from the others. Sunset sets out to find the reasons why. But don’t worry, the reasons why are revealed thanks to heartfelt conversations with one another.
Sunset has a few significant problems. First, it feels more like a play than a feature film. The action takes place mainly in Henry’s house and the film’s action is characters having conversions that starts with a recollection from the past leading to a revelation for the present. Dialogue-heavy movies are not a bad thing as long as the dialogue reaches Sorkin or Mamet-like heights. Sunset fails to reach levels of profound.
“…all begin to talk the same, especially when conversations get real serious.”
Second is a problem in character development—a problem I see a lot of indie dramas. This happens when writers don’t go far enough to vary its characters. They all begin to talk the same, especially when conversations get real serious. A good example is the character Chris. He’s the easygoing “man-child.” This character always likes to have fun and not take life seriously, that is until it gets serious, then he speaks exactly like the other characters.
Also, the secrets and revelations are always spoken by someone during one of the film’s many one-on-one conversations. A lot of great drama follows the adage, “Show, don’t tell.”
Lastly, the final problem is the low-stakes conflicts between characters pale in comparison against the high stakes nuclear winter. Everyone seems somewhat calm in the situation. Most people would go nuts with the impending destruction of earth, am I right?
On a high note, the production values are pretty good with nice location, good camera shots, and decent sound. But the quality wrapping can’t make up for what’s inside.
Sunset (2018) Directed by Jamison M. LoCascio. Written by Adam Ambrosio and Jamison M. LoCascio. Starring Austin Pendleton, Suzette Gunn, Juri Henley-Cohn, David Johnson, Barbara Bleier, and Liam Mitchell.
3 out of 10 stars