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!
Read More: Sundown Movie Review