Sunday, May 24, 2015

Daniel Peddle's SUNSET EDGE: Don't let this precious narrative debut get lost in the shuffle

Another of those small, no-budget indie films likely to appear in theaters and then disappear before film buffs get the chance to view it, SUNSET EDGE -- the first narrative venture from Daniel Peddle, who has also made a couple of well-received-if-little-seen documentaries -- heralds the debut of someone I'd call a born filmmaker. Nowhere near perfect in terms of a story that attempts to fuse dream and reality, it nonetheless marks a writer/director (Peddle) and cameraman/editor (Karim López) cons-tantly alert to color & space, objects & mood, motion & stasis.

Because the movie Misters Peddle (shown at left) and López (shown below) have made is about a group of teenagers spending a day in an abandoned trailer park, and is also being publicized as a kind of thriller complete with Hitchcockian overtones, you might expect something quite different from what you get. Yet I think this difference ought to be apparent from the film's first few moments. While the initial shot -- full of promise and perhaps something more -- together with the first words we hear (one character telling another, "I don't think you should do it") indicate that
something may be (or go) wrong, because the teens we see and hear seem so real and actually rather likeable, and the camera-work so fluid and aware -- of nature, of humanity, of connection -- it is difficult to imagine some-thing too awful coming up. Anything can happen, of course, but given these kids and their decent and interesting behavior, would we want it to?

Our quartet (above) -- picnicking on the asphalt with Cheetos and a very weird drink -- kibbitz and carry on, with a bit of jealousy developing between boy and girl, then go their more-or-less separate ways for a time, which leads up to some problems: a missing cell phone, getting lost in the woods, and a possible interloper.

Then suddenly we're introduced to a whole new set of characters, which brings us to the "other" of this tale -- the interloper, or maybe the immigrant. Initially I imagined this character (richly brought to life by newcomer Gilberto Padilla, above) to be a Native American, but instead, it seems his roots are in Mexico. Set in North Carolina, from where I'm assuming the director hails, the film is so full of a sense of place you can practically touch and smell the locale.

Over the course of the movie we see youth and age, past and present and a good deal of memory-maybe-fantasy at work. The sound design and musical score -- both by Ian Hatton -- prove distinctive and lovely, adding immeasurably to the film's success.

As does the first-rate cast of novices chosen to act out the roles. Chief among these, and certainly the best (along with Padilla) of the actors is a lovely young woman named Haley Anne McKnight (two photos above). Her boyfriend is played by William Dickerson (above), and the remaining members of the quartet by Jacob Kristian Ingle (below)

and Blaine Edward Pugh (below). All of them are acquainted in real life, and they are able to bring this friendship to excellent and very believable ends on film -- or video, most likely, in this particular no-budget endeavor.

Also in the cast are three more impressive performers: Alex-Padilla-Maya as the younger version of our "other," Jack Horn (shown at bottom) as his father, and Lilianne Gillenwater (below) as the old woman we see in that transfixing opening shot, who proves to be all kinds of things to this movie.

Memory -- along with a bit of a ghost story -- plays at least as important a place in this film as does present-time action. The movie takes places in what seems like four distinct chapters, with the last connecting to the first in a way that makes dream and fantasy top reality. But whose dream is this? The characters'? Ours? Obviously, it is that of the filmmaker. The beauty and surprise of Sunset Edge reside in how remarkably he has instilled his dream into us. Mr. Peddle and his cast and crew are clearly a group from whom we'll expect more.

The movie, released by CAVU Pictures and running just 83 minutes, opens this Friday, May 29, in New York City (at the Cinema Village), in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's Playhouse 7, and in Irvine at Regal's Westpark 8.

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