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We are nothing if not a collection of memories and actions that shape who we are, even if many are more haunts than cherished. What we do now is often judged against what we have already done, and for some that can mean a burden of almost unbearable weight. Such is the message of Watch The Sunset, a riveting experimental film that grips with immense power, a transfixing visual and auditory experience that will challenge you in remarkable ways.
There is a brief intro where real footage of drug addled victims of meth, crack, and heroin are shown in various states of ruin. It’s a disconcerting start. It then cuts to Danny (Tristan Barr), driving, a man clearly in trouble, his hand wounded, a gun on the dashboard and a woman in the backseat who looks terrified. He drives to a motel, but leaves her there locked in the room and drives off for an encounter with Sally (Chelsea Zeller), a former lover and mother of their young daughter Joey (Annabelle Williamson), with whom Sally wants only to protect. Danny longs to set his life straight and vows he’s a changed man, a step he thinks he’s started by holding that girl in the motel, but trouble comes to him when his old gang takes Joey and ignites within him a ferocity that reigns upon those who would harm his family.
Co-directed by Michael Gosden and by Barr, who also wrote the screenplay, Watch the Sunset is an unconventional twist on what might be a familiar story, however, be assured, this is a unique experience, one that is so well executed, you might not even notice what is happening until well into the movie. Aside from that aforementioned intro, the entire movie is a single shot. That’s right, one continuous unbroken shot that runs in real time the entire length of the movie. It might seem like a gimmick, but Barr and Gosden (who also has a part in the film) do a superior job of masking it, moving the camera with great intent throughout, following the action (even chasing a car) without it ever being “the thing” we pay attention to.
That aside, Watch the Sunset is, on its own, a very effective thriller, a tightly wound story that is simple yes, but profoundly impactful, the child in danger theme handled well and shockingly authentic. Little Annabelle Williamson is a wonder, heartbreaking in a very adult story. This a chaotic and troubling experience that doesn’t hold to expectations, it’s finale one that lingers well after it’s over.
Barr and Gosden deserve praise for pushing the envelope, especially in the opening, one that is nearly 18 minutes before a character speaks. Much of the film is shrouded in haunting strings (by Richard Labrooy), which often drown out dialogue, keeping much of the experience like a fable. It’s dreamy and surreal, layering these desperate characters in heavy melancholy, and yet, there is a sense of hope, that from the sins of one past, there can be redemption, even at great cost. Watch the Sunset is a jarringly effective piece of filmmaking.
Currently touring film festivals, Watching the Sunset looks to have a 2018 US release.
Movie description: Watch the Sunset is a 2017 crime/drama about a single afternoon in the life of a man who comes to grips with the power of his past when his estranged family becomes tangled in its web.
Director(s): Tristan Barr, Michael Gosden
Actor(s): Tristan Barr, Aaron Walton, Michael Gosden