Intense physicality defines Kate Lyn Sheil’s volcanic lead performance in Sun Don’t Shine, the grimy, feature-length directorial debut of Upstream Color star Amy Seimetz. (Upstream Color writer-director-star Shane Carruth executive-produced here.) Sheil acts with her entire expressive body, and throws her trembling soul into the bargain, too. Lending her troubled woman-child complete emotional transparency, she’s a sentient raw nerve too fragile for the rough, violent world she inhabits.
An arthouse twist on hardboiled convention, Sun Don’t Shine casts Sheil as an abused wife who heads to the Everglades with her electrician lover (Kentucker Audley) to dump the corpse of her abusive husband in the swamp, far from prying eyes. When Audley visits an ex-lover in search of an alibi, Sheil explodes with jealous rage, lashing out at anything that might harm the potent yet mercurial bond she shares with him.
Like Upstream Color, Sun Don’t Shine owes a sizable debt to the philosophical lyricism of Terrence Malick. Working wonders on a tight budget, Seimetz uses handheld cameras and tight compositions to create an air of claustrophobic intensity interspersed with moments of ragged beauty. Sun Don’t Shine’s elemental plot—it doesn’t get much more basic than two lovers, a car, a corpse, and a fuzzy plan to get out of one hell of a jam—unfolds in such enigmatic, elliptical bursts that it can be easy to forget the film is a noir, not just another artily shot independent film about overly intense people yelling at each other. Sun Don’t Shine can be shrill and grating in its highest registers. But at its best, Seimetz’s audacious, assured, brilliantly acted take on neo-noir has the hypnotic quality of a waking dream.