'Sun Don't Shine': Confident drama withstands heat ★★★ 1/2

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'Sun Don't Shine'

'Sun Don't Shine' (May 2, 2013)

In the crafty Florida-set "Sun Don't Shine" the sun shines plenty, but this is no day-tripping excursion to the beach, or Disney World.

This is another Florida. First-time feature filmmaker Amy Seimetz, who has acted plenty (on TV's "The Killing," and in Lena Dunham's "Tiny Furniture") while making short films of her own, knows in her native Floridian bones what all that sun and heat can do to a person's psyche. A swampy "Badlands" for the 21st century, "Sun Don't Shine" introduces us to Crystal and her boyfriend, Leo, smack in the middle of a knock-down argument, resulting from events that precede the film's opening. Crystal's late husband lies crumpled up, in plastic, in the trunk of their getaway car.

The details of the murder remain vague though, in Seimetz's hands, not frustrating. Shot and assembled with sharply edited and inventively cross-cut assurance, the film stays very close to the faces, bodies and clammy circumstances of lovers on the run.

In terms of conventional plotting, "Sun Don't Shine" is just enough. Leo, played with an increasingly addled look of panic by Kentucker Audley, has a notion that an old girlfriend (Kit Gwin) in Tampa might help them slip away to Mexico. En route Crystal, played by Kate Lyn Sheil (very good in "Green" and in the dazzling road-trip nightmare "The Color Wheel"), toys with an array of emotions and options.

Should she run? Is Leo heading to Tampa for one last hook-up? There's a poetic weirdness to the events as they occur in Seimetz's odyssey. The film finds its leitmotif in a memory Crystal shares with Leo about a childhood visit to an underwater mermaid show at a dinky theme park. The love story enacted several times daily at the water-park mythologizes one brand of fairy-tale romance. "Sun Don't Shine," tightly packed yet easygoing and guided by Sheil's distinctively low-stress deadpan approach to screen acting, offers quite another, the kind that requires corpse disposal.

mjphillips@tribune.com

'Sun Don't Shine' -- 3 1/2 stars
No MPAA rating
(some violence and language)
Running time: 1:22
Opens: Plays Friday-Thursday at the Siskel Film Center. Also available VOD.

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