How would you handle the imminent threat of nuclear attack? Would you immediately evacuate and join the hordes of scared and dangerous people trying to survive? Would you blow it all off and refuse to take it seriously until it's too late? Would you be too scared to make a move? Or would you simply refuse to run away and stand your ground until your final moments? These are the scenarios the film Sunset explores through a small group of characters entangled in each other's lives. While the film is far from perfect, an interesting concept and some solid performances make this indie well worth the watch. Writer/director Jamison M. LoCascio along with co-writer/producer/composer Adam Ambrosio create a small-scale drama about the coming apocalypse that feels like a play transferred to the screen. It's actually a feature length version of a short film they made, which is basically just the final scene of the finished film with the same two lead actors. They ran an Indiegogo campaign to help raise money for the film and put together a rather well-made film on what I can only assume is a very small budget.
The film starts at a birthday party for Patricia (Barbara Bleier) thrown by her husband Henry (Liam Mitchell). They've been married a long time and have suffered many strains to their relationship after Patricia suffered an accident. They are also joined by younger couple Ayden and Breyanna (Juri Henley-Cohn and Suzette Gunn), who have been trying to have a baby without any luck. The wild man of the party is Chris (David Johnson), a dim man-child that works with Henry and is currently living with them as a weird surrogate son (and there's a lot of unsettling stuff about whose stand-in son he'll be this week). I really have no idea how old Chris is supposed to be, but his backwards cap and demeanor seem to suggest early 20s while the actor suggests he's pushing 40. He's a total Denny if there ever was one. The group is rounded out by Julian (Austin Pendleton), a former teaching colleague of Patricia that's obviously always been in love with her and made Henry uncomfortable. As a side note, Pendleton was an excellent get for this film and gives perhaps the strongest performance out of the cast. He's one of those actors that you've seen in a million things, but when I saw him there was an image of him burned in my brain from childhood that I couldn't quite place. It bothered me for a while until I realized it was because he was the dad in Mr. Nanny with Hulk Hogan...so, shout out to all the Mr. Nanny fans out there. Whoop Whoop.
I won't go into any more detail about how the relationships play out, because it's really the strongest suit of the movie, even if some of the dialogue can be stilted at times. We find out that there had been a terrorist attack in L.A. the previous week where a bomb had gone off, prompting the U.S. to start bombing the Middle East in retaliation. The anxiety and fear effecting these characters escalates as the conflict does, but it always kind of stays in the background of their stories, having an effect on them but not really seeing the bigger picture of the world interacting with it. It's a smart move that keeps the story intimate and grounded while not getting too bogged down in creating the whole world within the film or over-explaining it. The film itself doesn't even seem overly political, expressing multiple view points during the party scene, but then quickly closing out the discussion without demonizing anyone. It tries to show that these are all just regular people who have no control over the situation anyway and are helpless to how it develops, no matter what their opinions may be.
Overall, I did like this movie. Most of the things I didn't like could be considered small or nitpicky, but really just express a certain amateurish quality the film has at times. For instance, a lot of the sound design bothered me. Things like unnaturally loud pouring liquids or Chris' non-descript “dance” music that never meshes well into the scenes really stuck out like a sore thumb. I mentioned some stilted writing before and while some of the actors were able to pull it off well (especially Pendleton and Gunn), others were not as successful and really dragged the film down at times. It's still an interesting concept and explores some frightening scenarios that hit pretty close to our current reality. Sunset will soon be available to rent/buy on places like Amazon, Itunes, Google Play, etc. I would recommend checking it out, I guarantee you it has a rather explosive ending. I'm definitely interested in what LoCascio and Halcyon Valor Productions put out next.
6 out of 10 old ladies Austin Pendleton wants to bone