Amy Seimetz double-feature! Her 2012 debut about abusive relationships, Sun Don’t Shine, is a film that you feel. So much so, in fact, that I couldn’t kick the feeling that I’d seen it before, even though I’m quite certain I haven’t. That doesn’t mean it feels like rehash. I love this film, and I think it’s familiarity is more about how it crept under my skin.
Kate Lyn Sheil is Crystal. She’s on a road-trip of sorts with Leo (Kentucker Adler), though it’s not the sight-seeing kind; it feels desperate and tense.
I love how this film starts. There’s no opening slate, no slow entry. You sit down, start the film, and the film starts. Crystal gasps and jerks up into frame-
We’re catching she and Leo mid-fight:
It’s such a great way to meet our lead (and damn, what a performance from Sheil!) – like she’s being born, like she’s escaping, like she’s wrenching her body away. This intro reminds me of the end of She Dies Tomorrow.
This film is so physical, and that’s really helped by how tightly Seimetz and DoP Jay Keitel shoot it. There aren’t many wides to think of. We’re close to see the sweat (add this to my “Sweatiest Film Festival” list) and pores of the characters.
Sun Don’t Shine is a bit of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” perhaps with elements of Clean, Shaven in there. It has great end credits-
-and one of my favorite last bits of dialogue that I can think of (offscreen woman: “Do you want me to call the police?” Crystal: “Not yet.”), which is delivered so casually – even comfortably – as Crystal relaxes in a stranger’s pool, the startling pink dress she’s been tugging down her legs for the last act now a bathing suit rather than a nuisance:
My favorite performance moment – of many – in Sun Don’t Shine comes during an intense confrontation between Leo, Crystal, and Terri (Kit Gwin). Adler more than holds his own in here, but it’s Crystal’s line “I’m gonna step outside for a moment,” right at the height of things, and her accompanying wide-eyed, crazed stare that sends the scene, and the film, into a new place:
We know this is Crystal’s film from that opening shot, and Seimetz gets us into her perspective often. I loved this moment at the end of a scene where a stranger (AJ Bowen) comes to see if they need some roadside assistance.
Crystal is framed between the seats. The stranger walks past, giving only the slightest of glances (or, maybe better, trying not to look at her) and we see him sideways in the frame, from her view:
As he continues past the car she catches his back in the side-view mirror – a last hope? – before Leo, all physicality, comes into frame and disrupts her POV:
It’s pretty simple, but the foreground, the horizontals, the reflections, the “changing of the guard” as Leo comes in instead of the man, all work so beautifully.
She Dies Tomorrow
When Seimetz’s second feature works, it really works. Kate Lyn Sheil is Amy (there’s something about naming a character after yourself…), a paranoid woman in the midst of a relapse who is convinced, like really, fully sure, that she is going to die tomorrow. Her paranoia infects anyone she comes in contact with.
The film would make a great triple feature with Embers and It Follows. Though She Dies Tomorrow sometimes feels stretched a little thin, it’s also really affecting.The existential fear of death is palpable in this film. It’s not always, “what would you do” (because people don’t do much – they talk, walk in a daze, cry…maybe that’s what you would do), as much as “how does that moment of discovery feel?”
Seimetz is smart to offset a lot of that dread with dialogue and beats that could be heavy-handed were they not delivered offhand, bitterly, or with an acidic acceptance. I’m thinking of Michelle Rodriguez’s dialogue pool-side (aside: Jane Adams’ entry into that pool, clad in pajamas, blood billowing beautifully, also feels like a callback to Sun Don’t Shine), of Adam Wingard’s half-hearted make-out request, of Jennifer Kim’s remark “whose house is this?”
I don’t have stills, but one of the best moments in the film comes in flashback, when we see the beginning of the spread as it pertains to Amy. Her POV of Craig (an excellent Adler again), still at the front door, his face obscured, the pizza delivery man obscured, the entire moment obscured, is haunting. It’s so good.
Another favorite is a simple enough shot, but it’s relevant to recent class discussions I’ve had. Jane (Adams) returns home – open doors are certainly a motif in the film – and walks down to her studio. Seimetz and Keitel cut to an insert twice. It’s of her foot on the stair, once in descent and again in ascent. In a vacuum it feels like an innocent enough shot, but in the context it’s great – it’s menacing and has a pulse of inevitability, as though that footfall will be her last, or is bringing her closer to doom.