Rooftop Films is in it’s sixteenth year of showing “underground movies outdoors”, so they must be doing something right. For independent film buffs in New York, the Open Road Rooftop on Grand St. is one of the places to be on a fair-weather summer night. On Saturday June 9, I attended a screening of Sun Don’t Shine, a romantic drama written and directed by Amy Seimetz. And it did not disappoint.
The story opens with Leo (Kentucker Audley) and Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) in a violent fistfight over what to do with a dead body that inexplicably ended up in their trunk. Don’t expect great answers to the questions that naturally arise, but you should be okay without them. Seimetz’ only apparent difficulty is maintaining why guy is with girl. It’s possible that it was all that lipstick and make-up when they first met, but stripped down to the stressful present, Leo takes care of Crystal as if he had to–like a sibling. Neither seems against the idea of parting ways, but maybe something to do with the gun in the glove compartment is keeping them together. The lack of a superficial (or even forced) relationship between man and woman, with instead a very realistic and simple connection between two regular people, is somehow captivating, and decidedly refreshing.
But there is a downside to the regularity of Crystal and Leo, and that is that they are occasionally boring. There is nothing particularly wrong with the performances of Audley and Sheil, but they were much more a pawn for Seimetz’ direction, rather than a force of their own. Their whispered and monotonous speech is acceptable in certain places, but it quickly becomes overused–especially when loud trucks drive by right when you think Leo might be saying something important. That particular dialogue heeds to the obvious naturalist theme of Sun Don’t Shine, but no audience wants to try and read lips. Maybe I’m overstating the point.
The true marvel of Sun Don’t Shine is Amy Seimetz’ intriguing screenplay and careful direction. I’d be remiss not to say that the conservative actors almost discarded wonderfully written lines; operative word ‘almost’. Specifically, she creates a palpable suspense by shooting a close-up when you think you want to see just a bit more, and she is more than successful in placing her audience into the head of her characters. And the transition is perfect. For a moment, your focus is forced onto the always-thinking and often-crying Crystal, and then it is picked up and dropped onto the creative and intense Leo. Every stranger is a threat, and perhaps so is Florida itself. It’s the middle-finger-to-the-world attitude that makes the film’s ending a memorable one.