Things Behind the Sun (2001)
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Critic Reviews for Things Behind the Sun
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A film of remarkable honesty and courage.
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Audience Reviews for Things Behind the Sun
I caught this little gem on late-night cable during a bout of insomnia and do not regret it. It's about a rising rock singer, Sharry (Kim Dickens) who is suffering extreme anguish because of a gang rape she endured as a young girl. She hid the memory away but it surfaces later in her life as the inspiration for her moody music. She reacts by diving into alcoholism, drug use and casual sex. Her protective manager (Don Cheadle, in a brilliant performance) sees the potential in her, but he also sees the hurt that will forever temper the brilliant woman she might have been. Enter Gabriel (Owen Richardson), a reporter wishing to interview the troubled Sharry. What neither of them knows is that his brothers were responsible for raping Sharry, and countless other girls, so many years ago in his childhood home. He loves Sharry, and tries to make amends with the news that his oldest brother, the "ringleader", is now in prison. Unsurprisingly, this goes very poorly, and Gabriel quickly finds himself in over his head. This is in part because both Sharry and Gabriel have information about the other that neither is aware of, like the missing pieces of a puzzle that was better off unfinished. These epiphanies are clarified in a series of heart-wrenching confessions book-ended by disturbing flashbacks that are admittedly hard to watch but admirably realistic without seeming exploitative. As the truth slowly, painfully comes to light the characters are left with the gravity of their choices, and the reality that there is really nothing they can do but try to move on and make the right decisions. I liked that the movie handled the subject matter in a paced, sensitive manner without co-opting the tragedy with easy solutions or predictable reactions. I felt sorry for the characters, not because I pitied them, but because they did a good job conveying formerly spirited people whose lives had been ruined by something vile and hidden. Kim's performance augments this sense of hopelessness with full immersion into the part of Sharry. There are some raw emotions and loaded conversations to be found here. If you rape someone, you vicariously rape everyone around them. As the friend of a victim of such violence I brought a lot of personal feelings to the movie, and the progression of the plot and the perceptions of the characters brought many of those feelings back. On the acting, it's a proper balance between naturalism and stagecraft. Sharry and Gabriel both mix it up between a strange kind of confused disengagement with the situation followed by an urge to please everyone. There are some really great scenes, like when Gabriel confesses his involvement to Chuck. It's always just a movie but Cheadle's reaction caught me completely off guard and I could feel how physically afraid Gabriel must have been in that moment. I also liked the part where Sharry finally goes back to the house of her nightmares to get some closure, and finds something unexpected there. Behind The Sun also deserves high notes for its excellent soundtrack, which features contributions by Sonic Youth and Kristen Vigard tailored specifically for the film, and like the rest of this movie they find just the right tone and grab it.
Incredibly moving and daring. Although it is not an easy film to watch because it is graphic, it is an eye opening and emotional film that deserves attention. Anders' has created a deeply personal film to channel her inner thoughts and emotions and has come up with something that demands to be seen. Things Behind the Sun is a beautiful film.
This is a very brave, honest look at the long term effects of rape, both on the victim and on an unwilling victimizer. The fact it chooses to explore both angles is impressive, but there is much more to be found here as this is not at all a 'message' film. For example, I'd be hard pressed to name a film that is more in love with music, both specific songs and of it, the creative process behind it, the act of composing, the finished product, everything. This is the kind of film that understands how a song can, in a few minutes, often express much more than all the dialogue in the world, how the right music can have such a long lasting effect on a person. This film is remarkably powerful, with scenes of such searing honesty that they cut right to the bone of the viewer. The ending is as 'uplifting' as the circumstances allow, presenting the characters with the opportunity to grow from their experiences and look to a brighter future, but the last song is heartbreaking, reminding the audience of just how much these characters lost that one night, and how much they can never regain.
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