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Sunset Drive

average rating is 4 out of 5


Patrick Foley


Posted on:

May 8, 2023

Film Reviews
Sunset Drive
Directed by:
Rodriguez Jennings
Written by:
Rodriguez Jennings
Ion Ciotu, Julisa Zamora

For what is one of life’s unanimously accepted joys, filmmakers sure do love making bittersweet films with the word ‘sunset’ in the title. Rodriguez Jennings’ poignant and emotional Sunset Drive is an impressive and atmospheric adopter of this reliable metaphor.


After an explosive and resentful row, couple Rowan (Ion Ciotu) and Eloise (Julisa Zamora) embark on a drive through the sunny streets and towns that they have tread in happier times. Along the way, as they pass through former haunts, they relive memories they have made throughout their relationship, as their connection was forming. With a sense of finality looming, it is for both to decide if their experiences were foundations for their future, or the sunny midpoint for a period in their lives that is drawing to a close.


Driven (no pun intended) by emotion, chemistry and notable visual storytelling, Sunset Drive is a stylish and sensual short that denotes heartbreak, longing, nostalgia and growth in its viewers. The disparity between Rowan and Eloise’s love stricken and dreamlike partnership presented in flashbacks and the cold, discomforting fracturing evident in their present is wonderfully realised by Ion Ciotu and Julisa Zamora in bold and raw performances. The relationship dynamic – with Rowan as the charming impresser and Eloise as the shy admirer in the past is turned upside down and back to front throughout the film as Eloise’s jealousy and Rowan’s forcefulness have emerged in the future. Jennings’ accomplishment is to refrain from making either party the villain, and instead make the viewer morose and regretful that a partnership that they are introduced to on difficult terms is ending, by harkening to happier times and connecting them to their physical world. It is a fantastic realisation that sometimes problems exist in a certain place or time, rather than defining someone for who they are.


The presentation of flashbacks in 8mm is every filmmaker’s favourite tool to inject nostalgia into any footage they so choose. The result is no different here. Happier times glow with crispness and warmth to match the leads’ emotional and relationship state, with the cool overlay of digital footage cast away in the same instant as Rowan’s morbid and depressive grimace gives way to beaming grins in the direction of his lover. It’s hardly a ground-breaking or revelatory technique, but for a film aiming for primary emotions, it is undeniably effective at tapping into the audience’s own experiences.


Dialogue is relatively minimal once Rowan gets behind the wheel, with the couple’s argument echoing throughout the remainder of the film. Instead, intricacies in the actor’s faces tell the story, as Jennings decides to put the visual at the centre of the stage. It’s a wonderful show of respect and trust in the film’s audience which makes the slow death of the relationship all the more authentic.


There is ultimately a limit to Sunset Drive’s significance and innovation. Yet as an examination of the impact of a break-up and the complex and difficult feelings they inspire during, it leaves a serious impression.

About the Film Critic
Patrick Foley
Patrick Foley
Theatrical Release, Short Film, Indie Feature Film
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