Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) are star-crossed lovers on the run to Tampa through desert-like conditions and sweltering heat in a battered car without air conditioning. As their trek becomes more arduous and their already tense relationship more fraught, their backstory filters out: a blurry, yet stirring picture of two emotionally disturbed people pitted together through wretched circumstances is formed.
Writer and director Amy Seimetz’ feature directorial debut founds itself upon Crystal and Leo’s nightmarish, yet opaque past, as the reasons for their quick escape are revealed to us through intense conversations and brutal, stark imagery. It’s a slow-burner that relies heavily upon the spine-tingling questions raised by their uneasy actions and the obvious resentment they hold towards each other in the here and now, and how they each deal with the overwhelming certainty of their own bleak futures.
It’s beautifully shot by Seimetz, who uses close-up camera angles and the searing, intense heat of the dusty nowhere trail to echo their current situation, as they find themselves trapped in their guilt, regardless of the unending landscape that’s passing them by. The well-built tense atmosphere of the opening act, however, is more frequently broken as the film reaches its disordered climax and as Seimetz’ direction succumbs to systematics and a desire to mimic her idols rather than create something entirely unique and reflective of her own talents.
The same can also be said for the narrative, which slowly runs out of steam, fervour and a reason for the audience to invest. Seimetz’ rigid focus bestows the film with a fresh feel, but the lack of information given about Crystal and Leo, who they are and what exactly brought them to this point, results in characters who, though obviously on the verge of self-destruction, are barely believable and share indifferent chemistry with one another.
That said, Audley tries his hardest in his attempts to instil some authenticity into Leo, and his reactions often feel like those of a man trapped in a tumultuous situation due to his love for Crystal and having a moral compass that restricts him from simply abandoning her and freeing himself of blame. Sheil’s performance as Crystal, however, is as shallow, unfocused and unhitched as they come, and her ruffled narration is a tedious addition. In many ways her performance reflects Sun Don’t Shine as a whole: a film with interesting elements and a pithy running time, defiled by a lack of preservation and backbone on Seimetz’ part.