The first shot of Sun Don’t Shine, writer/director Amy Seimetz’s entry in this year’s Flyover Film Festival, shows the character Crystal whipping back her head in a fierce, unmanageable torrent of anguish and pain. The film never lets up from there. In this closely tracked, couple on the run movie, the pacing doesn’t let you take a breath as it shoves the palpable tension so close to your face that even in the quiet moments, you are on edge.
The most notable aspect of this truly moving film is the very gradual, though natural, way in which the whole story unfolds. At the very beginning, we only have a nameless boy and girl wrestling madly on the roadside mud. You can see his insistence to keep her under control and her desperation to resist. In slow, incremental bits, you learn the nature of the crime, the nature of the characters, and the creeping uneasiness of their house of cards shaking. For much of the film, it is unclear where they are going, why they choose that destination, and what relationship they have. The context holds it masterfully together as you don’t feel like this information is being held from you for the sake of cleverness, and it doesn’t contain a lot of classic reveals, rather simply spending the time with these two under their great stress causes the truth to leak out from the cracks.
Seimetz sets the film in Florida (the Sunshine State, get it?), and during the after screening question and answer session, she told of growing up there and wanting to set a movie against it unique atmosphere. Thematically, the setting work wonders to deepen the story. The scenery has a decided fade from previous glory and a definite off-center understanding of the rest of the world. Beset on all sides against water, you can feel Crystal and her accomplice Leo afraid to drown, but wanting to float.
Let’s talk about these actors. Tucker Audley as the quiet, insistent Leo really nails this line the character walks between gentleness and impatience with Crystal. Audely shows Leo’s inexperience with this level of stress and resoluteness to continue despite it. Audley performed very well, though Kate Lyn Sheil as Crystal cast performed like a champion. Through so many fraught scenes, it is difficult for an actor to hold that reality completely together, yet Sheil did it with aplomb. Not only that, through the quiet moments, when you saw the workings of their relationship, Sheil told a heartbreaking story through her actions. She told of a combative, broken, half-mad woman trying to hold too much in her hands with intimacy, impetuousness, and doubt.
I don’t have much in the way of criticism against this film. Some clumsy dialogue, some unresolved plot holes, and some slightly lacking characterization are all that I can offer to a movie that really worked. The story that Seimetz wants to tell is clearly laid out and plain. Audley and Sheil sell that story with earnest skill. Though any budget they had must have been terribly small, the emotive, taut quality that this movie presented came from a priceless place of ingenuity and vision. Films like this one showcase how good filmmakers don’t need a budget if they truly are good filmmakers.