Sun Don’t Shine
A cross between a romance and a psychological thriller.
Published: March 27, 2013
Sun Don’t Shine
Directed by Amy Seimetz
Playing April 3 at MICA’s Brown Center, 7 P.M., with special guest Kate Lyn Sheil
starts with a struggle: A woman screams and flings herself furiously at a man, beating him; he fights her off and throws her down into a muddy puddle; she springs back up. They’re somewhere hot and wet—Florida, we soon learn—clad in equally filthy, drab-colored T-shirts and denim shorts. They wrestle until the man backs the woman up against a car in the middle of the wilderness, she screams “no,” and for a moment, we, unsure, are poised for something grisly to happen. Instead, the man stops, steps away, and allows her to collapse on the mud and catch her breath. Eventually she calms down, gets in the car, where he halfheartedly apologizes, and they depart.
Though the reason for their scuffle is murky, we glean the couple, Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley), is lying low, keeping on the roads, not making calls. We don’t know for how long they’ve been doing this or why, but they’re headed to Tampa, to see a she-friend of Leo’s who might offer some help. Writer/director Amy Seimetz avoids laborious exposition in this cross between a romance and a psychological thriller. We do learn some background from whispered voiceovers that play while the couple drives wordlessly through central Florida. Some pointed shots, too—the license plate on the trunk, Crystal pondering a gun in the glove compartment—give us small clues. But Seimetz allows most of the details of the couple’s flight to take shape gradually, without flashbacks, crystallizing over the course of the film, and this proves the greatest source of pleasure in Sun Don’t Shine.
Like many of the handheld shots in the film, Crystal is unstable, veering from seething to contrite to desirous in a matter of minutes. She’s prone to bouts of jealous rage. After one such outburst, when the car overheats and a passerby attempting to be helpful lingers a little too long while Crystal acts “wormy,” she apologizes to Leo profusely for arguing with him (she accuses him of thinking she’s unattractive); she puts her head in his lap and he shoos her away. In the face of her unpredictability, Leo remains comparatively calm and level-headed, executing a loose plan that’s mostly guesswork—but he becomes just as much as a liability in the end.
As the dynamic between Crystal and Leo takes shape and we understand what crime binds the two together, we hold our breath—as we did in the first scene—not sure what’s about to happen next.
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