“Things Behind the Sun” works best when it explores what could’ve been if different measures had been taken. The film rings the question of “What if?” around a single horrible moment in time, making it resonate with power for everyone involved.
The film begins with Sherry (Kim Dickens) getting arrested for drunkeness. She’s an up-and-coming musician, playing in a bar band and managed by her on-off lover (Don Cheadle) who is getting fed up with her alcoholism and promiscuity. LA rock journalist Owen (Gabriel Mann) hears about her music and comes down to Florida for an interview, but his real intention is to settle demons from what happened to both him and Sherry years ago.
The film gets its real power when it examines a terrible incident that affects not only the victim but also everyone else around her. It’s as raw as an open wound, bubbling emotions to the surface and not shying away from any ugliness. Alison Anders directs the film and her real strength is getting her actors to portray such emotions with honesty and potency. All of the actors give first-rate performances (Cheadle once again proving why he is one of today’s best actors) and Anders doesn’t shy away from anything, no matter how painful it might be.
Yet there are moments when the film is almost too blatant for its own good. There aren’t any real surprises throughout the course of the story and most of the emotional aspects are approached through fairly pedestrain measures, as if Anders couldn’t come up with an original way to present them. Moments sometimes descend into TV movie-of-the-week melodrama; a crime considering the cast and director should be capable of so much more that you can’t help but feel cheated. While its heart is in the right place and the cast gives powerful performances, “Things Behind the Sun” doesn’t shed any new viewpoint or perspective on the subject matter.