Sundown Ending Explained: What has happened to Neil?

Sundown Plot Synopsis

If you have seen Sundown, Michel Franco’s existentialist drama which was released in 2021, you may have been left with a few questions. It’s a puzzling movie and one that isn’t necessarily easy to understand.

Tim Roth stars as Neil Bennet, a middle-aged man who, as the movie begins, is seen staring into the ocean. It is clear from this opening scene that Neil is not a happy chappie but the reasons behind his discontent are hazy at best.

Where is Neil at the start of the movie?

Neil is vacationing with his sister Alice and her two children, Colin and Alexa, in Acapulco. With the exception of Neil, everybody seems to be having a good time. But then tragedy strikes back home and after receiving this upsetting news, Alice tells everyone to pack their bags so they can catch the first plane back to London.

When they get to the airport, Neil discovers that he has lost his passport. He tells his family to go on without him and promises to follow on the next flight after he has found the missing document.

Does Neil find his passport?

No, and for one very good reason: it wasn’t missing in the first place. So, what is going on?

At the early stage of the movie, we can’t be entirely sure. For some reason, Neil has decided to stay behind in Acapulco. After leaving his family at the airport, he books himself into another hotel, becomes friendly with Jorge, a local taxi driver, and begins a romantic relationship with a woman named Berenice.

When Alice calls him to find out when he will be returning home, he tells her that it won’t be too long. However, this is likely a lie as it would appear that Neil has no intention of leaving the Mexican beach resort.

Why does Neil stay in Acapulco?

It could be assumed that Neil has a good life due to the meat processing business that has made the Bennet family very wealthy. But as we all know, money isn’t the root of all happiness.

During the early part of the movie, it would appear that Neil stays in Acapulco to find some kind of fulfilment in his empty life. He might be rich but this clearly hasn’t made him happy. This could be the reason why he has decided to stick around but an event at the end of the movie opens up another possibility.

Later, Alice returns to Acapulco to look for Neil and when she finds him, she confronts her brother about his decision to abandon the family during their difficult time. Neil isn’t able to give a convincing reason why he decided to stay behind, which is as frustrating for Alice as it is for the viewer.

Does Alice convince Neil to come home?

Neil decides not to go home. After discussing the family business with Alice, he decides to hand over his assets and inheritance to her and signs a document in the presence of his lawyer to finalize this.

On her way back to the airport, Alice’s car is attacked and she is shot and killed. One of the shooters is Jorge, the taxi driver that Neil befriended, and when the police investigate, they assume Neil may have hired these criminals to kill his sister.

Neil is arrested and imprisoned for his suspected involvement but is later released.

Did Neil plot his sister’s death?

We can’t really say for sure but as Neil is already very wealthy, it is unclear why he would. There would be little need to kill her for financial reasons and as he seemingly had no other motivation to want her dead, it is doubtful that he would pay to have her killed.

It is likely that Jorge and his men opened fire on the car so they could kidnap Alice for ransom. Jorge presumably heard Neil talking on the phone about his family fortune and this likely gave him the reason to go after her. If this is the case, Alice’s death was probably accidental.

Ultimately, it is left to the viewer to decide as, like the scene at the end of the movie, the reason behind Alice’s death is left open to interpretation.

What happens to Neil?

After the police release Neil, he continues to spend more time with Berenice. He also meets with Colin and Alexa and gives them the rights to the family business.

A few days later, he has a vision of a dead pig and then falls down the stairs of his apartment.

Berenice takes him to the hospital where she discovers he has brain cancer.

Neil then leaves Berenice at the hospital and starts to walk the streets of Mexico alone.

The movie ends with an empty chair near the beach and Neil’s abandoned clothes scattered around it. This obviously leaves us with one question…

Where is Neil?

We don’t know. However, it is likely that Neil has killed himself after abandoning his clothes and walking into the sea. His brain cancer was probably the reason for this as it may be that he saw little future for himself. This might also be the reason why he decided to live out his last few days in Acapulco, not only to enjoy his final few moments on earth but to shield Alice and the rest of his family from his impending death.

The title of the movie also clues us into this. Just as the sun goes down as night falls, so too does our life when the darkness of death beckons.

Neil is distant throughout much of the movie and the reason for this is probably the crushing inevitability that his life, like the sun, is about to fade.

This is our interpretation of the ending but if you have answers of your own, please share your thoughts by leaving us a comment below!


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14 thoughts on “Sundown Ending Explained: What has happened to Neil?”

  1. When I heard his lawyer mention his “condition” I thought he was talking about autism, which would explain why he had no emotional connection to any drama that was going on around him, then when it was discovered that his cancer had spread to his brain, then I felt that the cancer was a reason for a complete personality change. Altogether a very thought-provking movie. It reminded me of L’etranger by Albert Camus, about a man who went to prison because he didn’t cry at his mother’s funeral.

  2. The point you all missed is that he’s obviously banging his sister and those are his kids. The guilt is what the movie is about his cancer is of no importance because he feels he deserves it. The kids know all the seedy details

  3. Hey, thanks for your comment. That’s really helpful to know – I hadn’t come across the term ‘sundowning’ before. It does change my perception of the story. Thanks so much!

  4. First, I think there are some insightful theories in this post what was going on with Neil. I think Neil did have some (maybe subconscious) guilt about the family business, and what the fate was for these animals. In fact, the movie starts out with him looking at the fish on the boat gasping for air. The whole ‘pig’ thing confused me until I read the previous comments. I thought there really was a pig in the mens shower, lol…

  5. It is possible that you are missing something. Which makes the movie a completely different watch.

    “Sundowning”. This is the term where people with dementia get confused when the sun sets and into the night. They can lose speech, go wandering.

    He knew he had tumours. The visions he had were part of that. It’s not clear whether the rest of the family knew or not. Sometimes I think they did. Other times not, and just knew he wasn’t happy.

    But often the times he’s just standing there, he’s sundowning. He meets Berenice in effect that state. Other times he’s just zoned out. It’s the slow horror and visions we are not yet seeing. The time of the day of the scenes come with this.

    I realised this after the movie had finished, when the titles were rolling. Perhaps I will rewatch it soon.

  6. I think the cancer spread to his brain and it made Neil unable to feel normal human emotion.

  7. These commentators may have missed some things, Neil wasn’t married, he knew about his cancer all along as noted by the Dr in Mexico, the pigs play a huge part as the family fortune is from slaughtering them—hence guilt. So the empty chair is a suicide walk into the ocean. Not a huge mystery.

  8. It’s all about swimming with the pigs, a new and extravagant Mexican excursion. Also, the lawyer knew about Neil’s brain cancer because he mentioned early in the movie about Neil’s ‘condition’.

  9. I don’t think he knew he was dying from the beginning, although that is an interesting thought and might want to make you want to live the rest of your life without worries on a beach. I think he was simply unhappy with his life and marriage, and didn’t care about money. But life has a funny and cruel way of surprising you when things seem to be going “well”- so surprise you have brain cancer now! Too bad your end has come.

  10. Thanks for your thoughts. The pigs were an unusual inclusion but more clarity as to their meaning would have been helpful. I guess we are supposed to make up our own mind.

  11. When his sister returns to Mexico, I think, why doesn’t she ask if he is depressed? I think the whole movie would have been fine without the pigs or knowing what the business actually was. That knowledge and the dead pigs adds another layer, but that layer isn’t leaned into enough to warrant it being there.

  12. Je pense qu’il s’est senti étouffé. Mais je ne sais pas si cela est lié à ses actions dans le film. Point intéressant cependant.

  13. Il y a une image au début du film, sur des poissons en train de s’asphixlifier.. peut-être s’est-il toujours senti comme cela. Pas seulement à ce moment de sa vie. J’ai eu envie de le voir très noir. Et se penser qu il aurait pu être l organisateur. Pour une fois. C est toujours la soeur qui decide. C zst quand même étrange cette série de morts. Je vais trop loin?

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