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

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 8, 2012

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