Review: Sun Choke

Don’t worry about spoilers in this one, folks. I couldn’t tell you what happened in Sun Choke if I wanted to!  I exaggerate to make a point, but seriously, although there are specific events that occur in a somewhat chronological order, I have no idea why they occur.  Except for one partial flashback that hints why Janie (Sarah Hagan) once lost her mind, there’s no fundamental milestone from which to tether the story.

Sun Choke begins with Janie being treated in her (I think) home by Irma (Barbara Crampton).  I don’t know how old Janie is supposed to be, but the actress who plays her is a younger-looking 32-year old.  Janie’s mother is… gone, probably dead, but we don’t know how or when.  Her father is travelling in Europe.  We don’t know who Irma is; perhaps a longtime friend of the family, but Janie once refers to her as “the help.”

Irma’s treatments begin as compassionate but grow more than a little sadistic. Whichever they are, they’re always strict, with punishments for breaking the rules.  We don’t know how long Janie has been undergoing the treatment of if she’s getting better or worse.  Ultimately, when she earns some time away from the house, we discover it’s the latter, which results in some violent acts happening in the second half of the 83-minute movie.

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Basically, she stalks another young-ish woman, Savannah (Sara Malakul Lane), but… you guessed it… we don’t know why. There’s a hint that they’ve known each other in the past, but it’s a stretch to fabricate a backstory based solely on what the movie gives us.  To me, whether the resulting chaos happens randomly or because there’s a hidden connection is a relevant plot point that I’d like to be revealed.

Having written all this, I actually enjoyed much of the dreamlike state in which Sun Choke is filmed by writer-director, Ben Cresciman.  By the end, I’m not certain anything that I witnessed during the movie really happened.  With its final shot, it’s quite possible all the events occurred only in Janie’s mentally-troubled mind.  It would depict a state of mind existing immediately before the final action she takes, which I do believe really happened.

With that final shot, the movie is ultimately a bummer. There’s nothing wrong with a downbeat ending as long as it means something.  However, I couldn’t determine what meaning to assign to Sun Choke.  I held on for most of it, expecting an emotional payoff that never came.  For me, it was all too shallow.  You might find something deeper to it, but I don’t really recommend that you try.

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