This review was originally published on April 1, 2012…
Every once in a while, an indie film will come along that receives universal praise. It will be the talk of the town and win awards. And then I will see the film and find myself disagreeing with everyone else. This is the case with “Sun Don’t Shine.” The weird thing is, I can absolutely see where all the film’s cheerleaders are coming from.
Writer/director Amy Seimetz oozes talent. Likewise the actors portraying the young couple on the lam have got some chops. I like the way the story unfolds slowly and what they’re running from reveals itself over time. What I can’t stand is Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil), the shrewish and infantile simpleton that is the film’s female protagonist. Unfortunately she is in nearly every scene, whining like a mosquito and completely detracting from what is otherwise a very good movie.
I realize that she is like that for a reason. “Sun Don’t Shine” is clearly an antidote to the Hollywood portrayal of young criminals in love and on the road. This formula often turns out pretty well (“Wild at Heart,” “Natural Born Killers,” “True Romance”), but it also makes for a very stylized and glamorous portrayal of the depraved duo.
Thus, I do appreciate the truthful approach that Seimetz has taken and she succeeded on many levels. While not unattractive, Crystal and her beau, Leo (Kentucker Audley), are far from glamorous. They wear dirty, ill-fitting clothes and are perpetually drenched in sweat. Not the sexy Antonio Banderas kind of sweat either. You can almost catch their stench through the screen.
There’s nothing much sympathetic about Crystal or Leo. Still, I can look past many character faults in a compelling story. But there is just something about Crystal that rubs me the wrong way. Crystal is not of sound mind and body, but even a crazy person should recognize the magnitude of the favor in question. Instead of being grateful for Leo’s help, she just whines and mopes around. She makes dangerous mistakes and awkwardly attempts to seduce him whenever things aren’t going her way. She has all the sexiness of a scared adolescent girl in her mother’s makeup.
While they kill some time at a bar, Crystal follows Leo around like a puppy. Leo keeps pounding the drinks while Crystal yaps away and tries to throw her vagina at the problem. Most of the time, Leo doesn’t even seem all that interested, but there must be some reason why he’s sticking around. He is astonishingly patient with her considering the amount of pressure he is under. Though he does get fed up on occasion, such as in the explosive opening scene where the two of them fight in a mud puddle like wild animals. I can’t say I blame him. After all, she is the reason they are in this mess.
There is only one other female character in this film, and she too has a strange, infantile seduction technique. If a man had directed, I might suspect him of misogyny. Crystal is so shrill and grating. She’s not quite Kate Capshaw in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” but she’s not far off. However, since a lady was at the helm of “Sun Don’t Shine,” I’m going to have to assume that this is just the sort of thing Leo is into. Maybe it’s a masochism thing.
The look of the film is very unique and surprisingly beautiful despite muted colors and frequently overcast skies. The camera stays tight on the action, heightening tension and keeping the audience in the thick of it. Synecdoche shots of the underside of a steering wheel or the road through the bottom of the windshield help to convey the tediousness of road trips and are also a beautiful way to transition to the next scene. It’s been done before, but Seimetz’s composition and smooth editing make it feel brand new.
Chances are, you’re starting to think this sounds like a pretty good movie. And you’re mostly right. In fact, it seems more likely than not that you will LOVE it. Everyone else does. I would too if I could stand the character who occupies 90% of screen time. I truly look forward to seeing what Amy Seimetz does next. I just hope it doesn’t involve Crystal.