Directed by David Woods Starring Shane Sweeney, Gemma Woods, & Heather Darcy, Indie Film Review by Evie Brudenall
Although Till Sunset sounds like it could be a spin-off of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, don’t mistake the romantic title for a sweeping, loving drama as ardour is the furthest thing from director David Woods’ mind. Think more ‘violence in the woods’ than ‘long walks on the beach’.
After a blow to the head, Sean (Shane Sweeney) inexplicably wakes up in a wooded area, disorientated and confused. His fears aren’t soothed by his two companions, Kerry (Gemma Woods) and Beth (Heather Darcy), who have also found themselves stranded in the forest with little memory as to how they got there. As the desire to leave becomes even more urgent, Sean, Kerry and Beth experience visions that could explain everything.
From the very first frame, mystery is introduced; after hearing the utterance “till sunset”, Sean is attacked by an obscure figure, setting into motion the relentless ambiguity. The narrative is mainly explored through the perspective of Sean, so like him, we question every little detail and piece of information that Kerry and Beth present him with, considering whether or not they are withholding any crucial elements. However, we ultimately begin to distrust Sean’s judgement and perception as he experiences visions that may or may not be figments of bizarre delusion.
Beth acts as the newest arrival to the trio of supposed victims and her distressed state heightens and stirs the bubbling tension. Beth’s cryptic clues and evasive references to “the shadows” creates significantly more confusion than it solves and we’re left feeling exasperated by the unforgiving plot. Subsequently, the dialogue feels repetitive and cyclical in its nature; there’s only so many times you can hear variations of the same interrogatives and receive familiar, non-distinct responses before you stop caring about the intention behind the questions altogether.
As Beth rambles in riddles, we’re given the continual implication through severely fragmented recollections that these three central characters are intrinsically connected and their memories hold the key to unlocking the conundrum; though perhaps Sean’s retention is more valuable than Kerry or Beth’s. Unfortunately, the editing and transitions between the present situation and the character’s flashbacks/visions is jarring and cheaply sewn into the fabric of the indie film. The visions themselves are nonsensical and simply head scratching, but the original music composed during the sequence creates the desired tension that the convoluted picture fails to generate.
The joy for audiences of watching mystery thrillers is that we can fathom our own theories and cast our own predictions based on the information that’s given to us. But when the information is disjointed, that fundamental joy is taken away. As you think you’re inching closer to assembling the pieces of the mystery, the metaphorical rug is pulled out from under you, sending the puzzle pieces flying up into the air. The frequency at which this experience occurs becomes frustrating and you surrender to the fact that you’re unlikely to ever crack the enigma that is Till Sunset.
Big on aspiration with an intriguing premise, Till Sunset is regrettably an incoherent mystery tale that raises many more questions than it answers. And, boy – will you want those answers.