The heat of summer has officially arrived in New Jersey, and if you’re like me, you might be in the mood for a film which feels as muggy and languid as the weather outside. One of my favorite sub-categories of what I like to call ‘the sweaty drama’ are crime films set in the beautiful and scorching Floridian landscape, where the climate seems to drive people to utter desperation.
Larry Clark’s 2001 film, “Bully,” is a good choice, as it follows a group of teenagers in southern Florida, who, after enduring various forms of abuse from the school’s oppressor, at last bring themselves to exact (violent) revenge and must suffer the psychological trauma. But maybe this film’s naive characters and juvenile themes aren’t exactly what you’re after. This year’s “Spring Breakers” (Harmony Korine) could be a good bet too, unless you, like many of us, are fed up with James Franco (who is attempting to make a film version of the unfilmable Faulkner novel, As I Lay Dying, and who Time recently, unironically, nominated as the 21st century’s first public intellectual). Still, “Breakers” is unquestionably a must-see, for its casting of Disney princesses as nihilistic criminals and/or for its continual alternation between idealized, nondiegetic shots of party girls, naked breasts bouncing under waterfalls of beer, and the actual plot, where deeply repulsive materialism and air-headedness lead to a fantastical killing spree. Over all of this is the repetitive cry of “spriiiiing breeeeak,” which the characters chant fervidly, like an “ohm.”
These films are enjoyable, yes, but currently I’d bypass them both and suggest Amy Seimetz’s 2012 film “Sun Don’t Shine” (which you can stream on Amazon for only $4). The story follows two lovers, Crystal and Leo, who are hiding the body of Crystal’s husband in the trunk of their car. The expressionistic shooting style and small cast, focusing primarily on the couple, create a sense of profound intimacy and understanding of their peculiar relationship. Crystal’s late husband was unthinkably abusive, leading Crystal to begin cheating on him with Leo and finally, to murder her husband. All of this happens before the film begins, so that the story focuses instead on the mounting tension in Crystal and Leo’s relationship, which may be one of the most complex I’ve seen on the screen in recent memory. Rather than Leo being an accomplice, or even apathetic to the crime, he is deeply disturbed both by the danger of the putrefying body in the trunk of the car and the extent to which Crystal is beginning to crack under pressure. It is clear that the two are in love, but the tension of the situation saturates every silence, making this film a unique portrayal of the often cliche “lovers on the run from the law” trope.
This fascinating portrayal of love relies greatly on the talent of Kate Lyn Sheil (who plays Crystal), whose performance shows the anatomy of a breakdown in a way that is both unconventional and full of sincerity at the same time. To get a taste of this performance, as well as the general flavor of the film, please take a moment to check out the trailer below.
And trust me when I say that this film is a perfect complement to sweaty summer ennui.