Monday, 18 September 2023

Mubi Monday: Rotting In The Sun (2023)

Although it's not entirely correct to label it thus, Rotting In The Sun is a film you could describe to others as a darkly comedic riff on Blow-Up for the Instagram and TikTok generation. If that sounds horrible to you then you should be wary of going into this, but I hope you give it a chance. Despite my attempt to create a shorthand description, there's a lot more to this, both serious and thoughtful and brilliantly comedic.

Writer-director Sebastián Silva plays a movie version of himself, spending most of his time disconnected from life going on around him while he ponders suicide. He ends up encountering an online influencer/celeb named Jordan Firstman (played by . . . Jordan Firstman). Jordan is keen to work with Sebastián, but Sebastián isn’t all that interested. And then he disappears, sort of, in a strange chain of events that is only fully known by Sebastián’s housekeeper (played by Catalina Saavedra).

Quite brilliantly summed up by the title, Rotting In The Sun is a film that works hard to push viewers away before drawing them right in again, bringing you closer to the heart of something you now better identify with after having seen it from a distance. It’s a film about distraction and depression, in a few different forms, and shows how even the most unique and bemusing circumstances can remain boring to someone who has already decided to keep away from anything that could be seen as positive. This is clarified in a scene that is as hilarious as it is transgressive, and one that is bound to turn off more conservative film viewers. 

Silva, having co-written the screenplay with Pedro Periano, delivers his most satisfying feature yet, from those I have seen. Despite seeming unfocused and shambolic for a lot of the runtime, there’s always a point being made. This is a film that makes a few strong statements, but you could be forgiven for getting to the end credits and assuming that you’ve wasted your time. I would argue against that, and I think the third act is a particularly brilliant blend of commentary, wit, and heart, but each to their own.

Aside from his writing and direction, Silva has fun in his pivotal onscreen role, and helps himself by his own disappearance at, or just before, the halfway point of the film. Firstman also seems to be enjoying himself, doing a great job of portraying a personality who is used to getting people in line with his thinking until ideas become fully-formed active plans. Saavedra is fantastic throughout, effectively portraying the only one of the three who always feels like a real person. She isn’t trying to put on an act to impress or bluff others, for the most part, and when she does have to lie to people she does so in a way that seems uncomfortable and clumsy.

Fun, funny, and yet brilliantly on the nose when it comes to dealing with some serious points tucked underneath the dark comedy overcoat, Rotting In The Sun is a real treat for those who are not easily shocked. And if you are not sure whether or not you consider yourself easily shockable, this has a hilarious “test” for you.


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