What do you get when you mix sanctimonious liberalism with the type of production values that one would normally associate with an evangelical-produced film about the rapture?
The 2018 film, Sunset, opens with a birthday party and it’s all downhill from there. Elderly Henry (Liam Mitchell) may have just wanted to celebrate the fact that his wife Patricia (Barbara Bleier) had managed to survive another year despite being in poor health and almost constant pain but he made the mistake of inviting Julian (Austin Pendleton, who always seems to get cast in roles like this) to the party and all Julian wants to do is talk politics.
Julian is concerned that the United States has been carpet-bombing the Middle East. Henry thinks that the Middle East is getting what they deserve because a group of terrorists set off a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles and apparently destroyed the West Coast. Julian isn’t so sure that the destruction of Los Angeles justified the destruction of the rest of the world. (Take that, City of Angels.) Fortunately, before things can get too intense, Chris (David Johnson) says, “Let’s get this party started!” and all of the political talk is abandoned.
However, the next morning, everyone wakes up to discover that missiles will soon be hitting the East Coast! (This movie made me happy to live in the middle of the country.) Everyone is making plans to evacuate the coasts and move to the red states, where they’ll presumably demand a state income tax and a Wawa on every street corner. (To quote the Texas waitress in Hell or High Water, “Some asshole from New York ordered a trout. We ain’t got no goddamned trout.”) However, Patricia refuses to leave her house because she’s old and in constant pain and she wants to end her life on her own terms. Of course, since Patricia refuses to leave, that means that Henry is now obligated to stay there with her and die as well, despite the fact that he has a sister in Missouri who would probably take him in. Way to go, Patricia.
While Patricia is getting ready to kill her husband, the other people who were at her party are making plans as well. Chris uploads a YouTube video where he talks about how scared he is about the end of the world. Ayden (Juri Henley-Cohn) and Breyanna (Suzette Gunn) do a Google search on the effects of nuclear war and they decide that they don’t want any part of that. (I wouldn’t want any part of it either. Nuclear war sounds gross.) Smarmy little Julian pops up occasionally and basically spouts the type of boomer political blather that makes Stephen King’s twitter feed so tedious. Every few minutes, someone turns on a radio or television and we hear a reporter talking about how the world is about to end. This is a low-budget film so we don’t actually see any of those reporters, we just hear their voices.
Usually, this is where I would point out that the film at least has good intentions regardless of its aesthetic shortcomings but …. eh. Good intentions can only go so far and the aesthetic short comings here are dramatic. This is one of those films where people are dealing with a huge, emotional event but everyone seems to spend their time speaking as if they were a Wikipedia article come to life. Add to that the fact that Patricia’s desire to die in her house seems more selfish than noble and you’ve got a film that really doesn’t work.
That said, I did like the final five minutes of the film and not just because they indicated that the film was almost over. Those final five minutes do give the film a much-needed sense of grace. One gets the feeling that the entire film was made so that the director could have those final five minutes and, regardless of how bad the rest of the movie may be, the ending does have an isolated impact. If you just saw those five minutes (and not the 80 minutes that came before them), you would be sincerely moved.
Anyway, as far as films about the end of the world go, Sunset didn’t end it quickly enough for me.