Directed By: Ryan Hendrick Starring: Frazer Hines, Caitlin Blackwood Short Film Review by: Jack Bottomley
“Life is a gift” many have said it and many have felt it. No matter what is thrown at you in life, the very nature of experiencing the living world is a gift we all receive and make what we can of it. “Life is a gift” may be an opinion many have but it is also the opening statement in Writer/Director Ryan Hendrick’s short film Sundown, a film that very much harnesses this ethos through a tender human tale. Sundown is a meditation on what it is to live and appreciate all that comes with it.
The film starts at sea, as William (Frazer Hines) travels by boat to the shores of an island community to meet young lady Abi (Caitlin Blackwood). On this trip, he learns how to cope with issues in his own life and discover more about life itself. So often films that tackle the subject of death, living or loss are very heavy and grief-stricken but it is to the testament of this short, that such subjects are undertaken in a thoughtful and reassuring fashion.
Written by Hendrick and Clare Sheppard, Sundown is very philosophically inclined, narrated largely by Blackwood’s character - who comes to have even more depth and poignant relevancy in the minimal, reflective and emotional closing moments of the film – as she encourages us to think about our very existence. Chances are you will already have an idea that there is more to this visit than catching up with a friend for William but the story is so familiar because of the human burdens it deals with. Arguably echoing the experiences of many viewers, Sundown is a meaningful journey of dealing with what awaits us next by instead just respecting/living the moment. The film achieves a real solace by addressing that none of us really can say what it is like to die but all of us can say what it is like to live.
The story is genuine and not over dramatized or over sentimentalised, Hendrick and Sheppard instead opt for a far slower, warm and discussion-based approach and Sundown, like the changing skies, passes welcomingly, methodically and with time for you to think about all it expresses. This is made all the more effective by the film’s gorgeous assembly, which is expert. From Hendrick and Urszula Kocol’s fantastic editing, which intercuts the dialogue with short flickers of natural peace, to Director of Photography John Rhodes’ quite sublime setting, which is rich in lapping waters, brightly coloured fields, unusual rock formations/colours and gentle breezes. Visually, this film is perfect and the soulful and calm scoring by Stephen Wright only adds to the contemplative aura of Hendrick’s short film.
Sundown is an excellent viewing, made so by the aforementioned points and by a superb pair of leads in Blackwood and Hines, who many may recall appeared in Doctor Who. In fact the role of Abi was written for Blackwood and she is a powerful presence in the part and works well as a beacon of strength for Frazer Hines’ anxious and unsure William. The two help to make this a very intimate human story that picks up on feelings many of us come to encounter in our lives.
The concept for Sundown apparently came about when Hendrick visited the Isle of Iona (the absorbing location in which this film is shot), on the western coast of Scotland, in 2008 and witnessed the sunset that concludes the film and inspires its title. Like Hendrick undoubtedly felt at the time, this film allows us all to bask in this beautiful event and in turn question the very nature of being alive, just like the characters onscreen.
Sundown is really quite a beautiful little short, with an introspective power to it.
Watch the official movie trailer for Sundown below...