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Review: Minimalist ‘Sunset Edge’ Offers a Reflective and Visually Compelling Narrative

Review: Minimalist 'Sunset Edge' Offers a Reflective and Visually Compelling Narrative

Places, like people, have a history that sometimes gets
buried under ruble and dust as years go by, but there are always signs that point
to that hidden past and its secrets. With that in mind, a single decaying space
represents two entirely different experiences for the characters that collide in Daniel Peddle’s minimalist teen-driven drama “Sunset Edge.” Almost entirely
non-verbal, except for a couple sequences, the narrative revolves around an
abandoned mobile home park and the surrounding wooden area. It doesn’t like
much, but that’s where Peddle’s sharp filmmaking sensibilities are applied to
turn these components into an efficiently told and reflective narrative.

Ramshackle units filled with forgotten objects, as if those
who once lived there ran off without any time to salvage any belongings, serve
as isolated haven for a group of adolescents killing time without anyone to
bother them. Jacob (Jacob Kristian Ingle), the group’s daredevil, Blaine (Blaine Edward Pugh), the quietest one, plus Will
(William Dickerson) and Haley (Haley Ann McKnight ), who are a very relaxed version of the typical high school
sweethearts, aimlessly skate around and destroy the forsaken property. Unconcerned
with much else other than fighting boredom, the kids document their small town feats
with a video camera and their cell phones – a trait that embeds “Sunset Edge
with our current and easily recognizable need for immediacy.

But beyond the once inhabited area lays a brooding landscape,
a wooden area that has an odd magnetism at once frightening and spiritual. It’s
only when Will gets lost inside this natural labyrinth that Peddle’s turn to
the other part of the of the story. Told not to ever ask questions by his
grandfather, Malachi, a young Latino boy, grew up painting faces on trees to
make up for the lack of friends. Older now, he is curious to find out more
about his family and why he was raised in isolation. Glimpses of Malachi’s
memories are revealed to us through quick and bright flashbacks that include an
older woman dressed in flowy white gown. Without any inclusion of technology or
modern attires, Malachi’s part of the story could be taking place at any point
in the past century. It’s believably timeless.

Peddle’s cast is consistently natural and their banter
conveys visible comfort between, probably because their relationship extent
beyond the screen and that surely benefits the film – at least in regards to
the four teenagers that filmmaker introduces initially. The same can’t be said
about the performances in Malachi’s segment, which are shaky and not as
convincing. Yet, since “Sunset Edge” is first and foremost an experiential journey,
this doesn’t really deter from the overall success of the filmmaker in creating an atmospheric
work. 

The film’s greatest strengths are in its evocative visuals
that capitalize on the unconventional location. DP and Editor Karim López
focuses on the contrast between the shadowy indoor sequences as both Malachi
and the outsiders explore the homes, and the dazzling outdoors, which add a
substantial otherworldly quality. Every small trinket or elements present in nature
are shot as if they were as important as the human protagonists, because without
dialogue every message and piece of information comes from the conversation
between the space and the people occupying it.

Banking on its moody and tense notes, “Sunset Edge” moves slowly and sometimes
without much direction. Nevertheless, the way in which Peddle plays with time
and the effect this has on his characters helps bridge the gap between the two perspectives
he tries juxtapose. For the group of urban teens the place is a creepy and
lonely spot where they can be free and nothing has value, for Malachi, however,
Sunset Edge is sacred ground and a painful one to walk on. 

Despite showcasing skillful delivery in diverse areas, the
ideas in “Sunset Edge” are unfortunately muddled and for the most part anticlimactic.
Still, from what this truly independent project exhibits, Peddle has an unusual
point of view that was able to construct a story out of what many would have
considered creatively barren. With a tighter screenplay and a more sizeable
budget he’ll become someone worth keeping up with. 

“Sunset Edge” is now playing in L.A. at the Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 and in New York at the Cinema Village

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