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Sundowning

Any old malady would have done for Sundowning, a two-person convalescence chamber piece that opts to play off cinema's current disease of choice: dementia. The film's delicate twentysomething lead, Shannon, actually gets progressively stronger and healthier-looking throughout. The serene and stalwart nurse, Susan (Susan Chau), ministers to Shannon (Shannon Fitzpatrick) with numbingly repeated rituals: pill and food intake; scheduled activities of flower arranging; dancing in place; sleeping on command—viewers might nearly follow suit. First-time writer-director Frank Rinaldi drops us into sick bay, sans explanation, with periodic notations of days passed: final count, day 511. (It seems longer.) Role reversals, many mirrors, and a lesbian brushstroke indicate someone involved might have recently taken film courses on female melodrama; other thematic red herrings flip-flop, too irritatingly clichéd to recount. One through motif does develop: There are many images suggesting larva/chrysalis/butterfly, but Martha Stewart already used that one on a towel. Then suddenly, in a brave—foolhardy?—last-minute genre exit, Sundowning jumps track as Shannon slips out into Singapore by night, with the nocturnal hues nicely echoing earlier "coma/incubation" scenes, but it's followed by a corny sequence of lotus blossoms and a lipstick-y Buddha. A twisty matrilineal polemic unaided by some coarse digital imagery retrospectively explains some sci-fi-ish body alterations. Some films manage to engagingly tie up loose ends in a coda, but for that to work, the viewer has to care enough about the characters to run the thing backward in her head. Marsha McCreadie

 
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