We’ve got to take a route that don’t make sense.
This is what it’s like to be in over your head. The incessant talking to distract from what you’ve done and are doing. The rising frustrations as you try to reconcile your actions, justifying how you got here and where you must still go. You think love is enough—that a desire to protect someone might cleanse your soul of what that protection entails—but it will ultimately become another excuse to keep you traveling towards a conclusion without any escape. Maybe you elude the cops and return home as though nothing happened, but you’ll always know the opposite is true. You will know what it was you were forced to do for the person sleeping by your side and resentment will fill the hole forgiveness never could.
As writer/director Amy Seimetz shows via her feature directorial debut Sun Don’t Shine, we’ll often follow love’s plan regardless of knowing about its inevitable failure. Why? Because that connection is ingrained within our souls to the point of rendering death a better alternative than separation—the chance of coming out the other side worth the risk of jumping headfirst into oblivion. That’s what Crystal (Kate Lyn Sheil) and Leo (Kentucker Audley) have done after all. They were faced with an impossible choice and they chose a path of uncertain chaos. They will fight, argue, and accuse the other of sabotage. They will drift away into nightmare and wake to find reality holds little comfort itself. And as their minds unravel beneath the stress, their actions become dangerously unpredictable.
She throws us into the fire from the start too as Crystal and Leo engage in a physical battle in the sand, slapping and putting each other into chokeholds until they each calm down and resign themselves to the fact there’s no turning back. It doesn’t matter how they feel about each other outside of these pressing circumstances or because of them since taking the plunge has already bound them for eternity. The goal is thus to make it to the Everglades, dispose of the evidence of their crime, and pray nobody catches wind of their deeds. That means pretending Crystal never left her house and that Leo is simply visiting an old friend in Tampa (Kit Gwin‘s Terri). Their movements must be exact to pull it off.
How can they be exact when emotions and fears are at an all-time high? How can they begin to trust themselves let alone each other when salvation has been hastily planned on the figurative equivalent of a napkin? Leo looks to his girlfriend and sees the reason he’s willing to go the distance. Crystal looks back and thinks about what she’ll be leaving behind if they’re caught (her mother and daughter). So they test their partner’s ever-changing psychology. He wants her to focus on the present and she wants him to remember the past. His hope is that she’ll block what it is she did to stay strong for what they’re doing now and hers is to bask in happier memories that can shield her from the bad.
But good and bad can’t help merging within this adrenaline rush of a scenario that would hinge upon a wing and a prayer even if everything unfolded perfectly. The slightest deviation risks them losing their minds as the pressure bears down harder and harder until their breaking point is all that’s left. How do you appear normal in the presence of the epitome of normal (AJ Bowen‘s real estate agent trying to pay forward the kindness a stranger showed him when his own car broke down on the side of the highway)? How you deal with the knowledge that an extra-marital affair ignited this firestorm only to realize another will be necessary to finish it? How do you separate what your heart wants from what your head knows?
Seimetz maintains an almost constant close-up aesthetic to ensure we understand Crystal and Leo can’t. We see their anxiety, feel their insecurities, and relate to their rage when a new unknown wrinkle enters the story to render success that much more difficult. The heart won’t let them wise up and the mind won’t deny their love. Their interactions can come across as schizophrenic as a result—especially since Crystal has seemingly reverted back to a state of childlike obliviousness from the guilt. They must smack each other across the face verbally or physically just to break the potential spell of losing all sanity when the moment proves too volatile to put into perspective with the whole. These two are seemingly on borrowed time from frame one, drowning slowly.
A shaky camera and grainy picture augment this truth as the visuals refuse to let them slow down. And whenever Crystal and Leo try, Seimetz throws them back into turmoil with a gasp of terror or slammed fist of betrayal. Their feet grow less steady the closer they get to their destination and manic behavior consumes them the second they’re no longer able to trust each other’s word. Sheil and Audley are coming apart at the seams only to realize their characters shifted from being each other’s string to becoming the scissors cutting them loose. It’s therefore only right that their adventure would end in calmness. They move so fast from trouble that it’s almost comforting to know their route collides with it all the same.