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Published: Friday, April 26, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

'Sun Don't Shine' recalls 1970s American cinema

A convincing fistfight is always a challenge to execute in the movies, so "Sun Don't Shine" begins on a promising note: two people, a young man and woman, ham-handedly scrapping in the midday Florida sun. They look clumsy, stupid in their movements, and the scuffle has an authentically awkward feel to it.
Plus, it lets us know we're in the middle of something. The two people are Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley), who are driving across the Sunshine State for reasons that will dribble out only gradually. Despite the momentary fracas, they are together, in an awful sort of l'amour fou kind of way, and the gun in the glove compartment suggests that they carry a dark secret on this journey.
Leo is tight-lipped and unto himself, which might explain why Crystal goes the other direction: this tiny-eyed, baby-faced dynamo is a true loose cannon. It's hard to choose which of them would be the worse companion for a road trip.
"Sun Don't Shine" is written and directed by Amy Seimetz, whose performances in local director Megan Griffiths' "The Off Hours" and Shane Carruth's current puzzler "Upstream Color" have marked her as one of the more fiercely watchable actresses of her generation. She doesn't appear in "Sun Don't Shine," but displays enough directing touch to make you curious about seeing more.
The film's most notable success comes in conjuring up the humid texture of a particular place, from the Florida backroads to the tourist kitsch of the mermaid show at Weeki Wachee Springs.
Gorgeously shot on 16 mm. -- with cameras loaned out by Seattle's Northwest Film Forum, according to the end credits -- and baked in the subtropical sun, the stifling mood could explain the obscure behavior of the two unhappy lead characters.
Sheil and Audley come from the low-fi realm of indie film (some folks call it mumblecore), and there's a workshopped aspect to "Sun Don't Shine" that will either provide excitement or exasperation, depending on your tolerance for that vibe.
I confess that Seimetz appears more fascinated by the otherworldly spaciness of Kate Lyn Sheil than I am, but maybe that's a matter of taste.
The picture feels closer in spirit to American cinema of the 1970s than to mumblecore, and it does steer in the vicinity of the more out-there efforts of Robert Altman and Monte Hellman from that era. (Occasionally I wish a young filmmaker would want to ape the American cinema of the 1930s, but that doesn't seem likely.)
You have to be willing to put up with the maddening match of Leo and Crystal, but the movie around them is a persuasive fever-dream.
"Sun Don't Shine" HHH
A maddening young couple on the run are traveling through sunbaked Florida, a situation that succeeds on mood rather than storytelling. Director Amy Seimetz really knows the atmosphere of the Sunshine State, and the fever-dream movie feels like a throwback to 1970s cinema.
Rated: Not rated; probably R for violence, subject matter.
Showing: Grand Illusion.
Story tags » Movies

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