Written and directed by Amy Seimetz
In what’s a giant metaphor for a ruinous relationship, a couple, trapped in the box of regret that is their car, drive through the heat death of summertime Florida with a terrible secret in the trunk as their mood swings send them flailing like pendulums that never synchronize.
There isn’t much more to Amy Seimetz’ short feature on a couple’s disastrous trip, and it goes similarly scant on brains; it does have a lot of heart though, and Seimetz has both an emotional agenda and follow-through in realizing it, creating a film that is both compassionate to its characters but angry at the feelings they’re inspired by.
Kate Lyn Sheil stars as Crystal, the girl, and Kentucky Audley as Leo, the boy. Terribly codependent, Crystal flips between devotion and vitriol, her doll eyes’ turning from blue planets swimming with life to pin-prick black holes as the two emotions take turns to dominate in such rapid succession that they form a revolving conga line, so close are they in her headspace.
Sheil gets to indulge histrionics, embrace catatonia, and dissolve in moroseness, and alongside her, Audley has the unthankful job of trying to carve out a little drama of his own as the lover tasked with cleaning up their terrible deed, thoroughly in over his head where cannot tread water.
As her mood worsens and his patience wears thin, he begins to appear the most regretful man in the world, and Audley interprets this stranded man through squinting eyes that interrogate everything before him in search of answers, and with taut lips wherefrom words wriggle free.
Nothing that happens between them is believable and words spoken between the two don’t offer much, but Seimetz does use her framing to full effect in communicating the awful mental state the two occupy, from staying close to catch the heat wringing sweat from their faces, to closing in on them with car seat-framing, and tilting her camera and finding novel angles to evoke a world sliding sideways out of mental reach.
Worthwhile in its naked rage and despair, Sun Don’t Shine is a genuine feel bad trip with two characters neither lovable or in love with each other, and has little else worth holding onto, ultimately reading like failed older sister of David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, released the year following, another film about lovers trying to overcome a central bit of violence that threatens to separate them forever. Lowery, who edited Sun Don’t Shine, avoids every mire shown here, and his film is a success in every way; the only glory Sun Don’t Shine can boast of is the vivid emotional scar tissue that coils around it.