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The image of an elderly woman, her long white hair flowing in the wind as she seems to be in a sort of trance, is but one of the many evocative visuals in documentary filmmaker Daniel Peddle‘s (The Aggressives, Trail Angels) debut narrative feature. Set largely in the haunting environs of an abandoned trailer park in rural North Carolina, Sunset Edge has a visually poetic quality that goes a long way towards compensating for its opaquely nonlinear, barely there narrative. Although probably too esoteric for all but the most adventurous arthouse audiences, the film signals its director as a talent to watch.
Two stories are vaguely intertwined in the languorous proceedings. One involves a group of four teens whiling away their time in the dilapidated trailer park, which looks like it might have been deserted in the aftermath of a nuclear accident. Skateboarding through its environs, aggressively engaging in paintball battles and scavenging the meager possessions that have been left behind, they present a portrait of disaffected youth who clearly have too much time on their hands.
The second plotline involves Malachi (Gilberto Padilla), a young man whose father has recently died. Sorting through his father’s things, he discovers clues about his identity and past, including ominous newspaper clippings about a local slaying, that lead him to the trailer park in search of further answers.
Eventually the two stories come together, although the lengthy build-up has been so amorphous that it barely makes the intended impact. Described as “part gothic thriller, part coming-of-age tale” and a “Hitchcockian mash-up,” the film doesn’t really succeed in any of these aspirations.
But there’s no denying the visual acumen on display by director Peddle and director of photography Karim Lopez. Filled with gorgeous imagery shot entirely by natural light, the film casts an at times hypnotic spell. It also boasts an authentic feeling for its rural milieu, aided in no small part by the atmospheric locations and clearly influenced by the filmmaker’s own Southern upbringing. It received its world premiere, appropriately enough, at the Rural Route Film Festival, highlighting works devoted to rural people and places.
Production: The Secret Gallery
Cast: Gilberto Padilla, Jacob Kristian Ingle, Blaine Edward Pugh, William Dickerson, Haley Ann McKnight
Director/screenwriter/producer/production designer: Daniel Peddle
Director of photography/editor: Karim Lopez
Costume designer: Drew Dasent
No rating, 87 min.
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