Beware of rus­tic harm

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

THE NIGHT OF THE SUN­FLOW­ERS/ LA NOCHE DE LOS GI­RA­SOLES Di­rected by Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo. Star­ring Carmelo Gómez, Ju­dith Di­akhate, Celso Bu­gallo, Manuel Morón, Mar­i­ano Alameda, Vi­cente Romero 16 cert, Screen, Dublin, 123 min

THE dis­cov­ery of a young wo­man’s body in a field is the start­ing point of Jorge Sánchez-Cabezudo’s en­gross­ing thriller, set in an iso­lated rural town in north­ern Spain. The di­rec­tor’s clev­erly con­structed screen­play ex­plores the con­se­quences through six over­lap­ping chap­ters in which events are ob­served from dif­fer­ent perspectives.

The first in­tro­duces a com­mer­cial trav­eller (Manuel Morón) ped­dling in­dus­trial vac­uum clean­ers and watch­ing TV cov­er­age of the mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In the small town of An­gosto, there is ex­cite­ment at the dis­cov­ery of a pre­his­toric cave, which the mayor hopes will at­tract tourism and re­vi­talise the area. A ge­ol­o­gist (Carmelo Gómez) ar­rives to ex­am­ine the cave, ac­com­pa­nied by his fi­ancee (Ju­dith Di­akhate) and a pho­tog­ra­pher (Mar­i­ano Alameda). And the lo­cal po­lice chief (Celso Bu­gallo) is plan­ning his re­tire­ment – and dis­ap­prov­ing of his daugh­ter’s re­la­tion­ship with his deputy (Vi­cente Romero) – when there is a sec­ond killing.

Con­sis­tently play­ing against genre ex­pec­ta­tions, the movie is not formed as a con­ven­tional whodunnit, be­ing more con­cerned with chart­ing the be­hav­iour of its di­verse pro­tag­o­nists as their fates in­ter­sect and they are faced with se­ri­ous moral dilem­mas. In that re­spect, it gains im­mea­sur­ably in dra­matic power by re­vis­it­ing key events from dif­fer­ent points of view. Par­al­lel to its ex­po­sure of moral de­cay is a dole­ful re­flec­tion on rural com­mu­ni­ties dy­ing from de­pop­u­la­tion.

Es­tab­lish­ing an omi­nous at­mos­phere from the out­set and work­ing with a well-cho­sen cast, writer-di­rec­tor Sánchez-Cabezudo makes a thor­oughly as­sured fea­ture film de­but with this thought­ful, imag­i­na­tive and in­tri­cately struc­tured drama that proves sat­is­fy­ingly tan­ta­lis­ing – which is ap­pro­pri­ate for a movie in which one of the main themes is the de­cep­tive­ness of ap­pear­ances.

The Night of the Sun­flow­ers is not a con­ven­tional whodunnit

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