Rotting in the Sun – Review

Rotting in the Sun MUBI

Warning – This review contains major spoilers for Rotting in the Sun

If Tom Gormican’s The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent taught us anything, it’s that we love actors playing hyper stylised versions of themselves. Sebastián Silva’s Rotting in the Sun, takes this one step further – casting both himself and social media influencer Jordan Firstman as exaggerated “selfs”.

The film, which is currently streaming on MUBI UK & Ireland as part of a collection of Silva’s work, feels like something of a mockumentary, with it’s shaky cam and it’s improvised-feeling dialogue. It has elements of everything in it – from classic crime thriller to comedy to scathing attack on influencer culture.

For the first forty minutes or so of Rotting in the Sun, you may well be wondering what exactly you have signed up for. As Silva inhales bump after bump of ketamine, his artistic and personal life meanders from bad to bizarre. After a series of his painting have been accidentally ruined by his hapless, timid housekeeper, Vero (played by the outstanding Catalina Saavedra), he decides to take a break and hit a well known gay nudist resort. Put simply, you are unlikely to ever see such a wide array of penises in such a short space of time. Deliberately keeping the camera at genital level, Silva acts like quite the provocateur.

It is on this nudist beach that he encounters Firstman, who offers to work with him on a TV show. Sensing this is the career opportunity, exposure and cash flow that he needs, Silva agrees and sets up a meeting back in his home town. But, when Firstman arrives at Silva’s flat, he appears to have gone missing …

Another warning – Seriously, very big spoilers ahead!

It is the chaos of Firstman’s arrival in Mexico that really sets the film on track. Vero pretends to know no English (or Silva’s whereabouts) when the sassy, snappy Firstman arrives. Workmen weave in and out of the apartment and the noise of drilling is constant. Silva’s landlord, Mateo (Mateo Riestra) is also rather keen to locate his drug-addled friend, worried that he may have accidentally encouraged him to commit suicide with dog poison. Chima, Silva’s dog, pines for his owner and continues to eat random homeless people’s shit off the pavement.

Rotting in the Sun That should hopefully give you a sense of the disorder that Silva sets out to establish. We have previously watched the anxiety ridden Vero push her employer off his roof terrace in a moment of sheer confusion. And it is her quest to cover up his death that spans the rest of the film. Catalina Saavedra gives an utterly brilliant performance as she desperately tries to elude suspicion. Everything about her screams unlikely killer and she absolutely nails the nervousness and grief that her character is going through.

Jordan Firstman plays a, presumably, heightened version of his social media persona. He initially uses Silva’s disappearance for his own gain, using his social media following to gain both attention and sympathy. When he begins to suspect something darker has happened, he continues to monologue on Instagram, with many of his followers concerned for his mental health. Silva offers up something of a commentary on influencer culture – how it can be used for good and how it can be abused and exploited. The “true crime” fans that circle around Silva’s absence like vultures are only there for the gory details – something that leaves Instagram addict Firstman feeling entirely disillusioned with the platform.

There are moments of both outright comedy, dark humour and just plain darkness. Silva and Pedro Peirano’s script leaves plenty of room for everything. It is satirical and hedonistic; excessive and intimate. It’s a film that clearly enjoys playing with your expectations and delivering moments of real shock factor when you least anticipate it.

Although there are some real pacing issues in the third act when the film seems to run almost entirely out of steam, Rotting in the Sun is definitely one of the most interesting watches you’ll see this year.

Rotting in the Sun is now streaming on MUBI UK & Ireland.

Mary Munoz
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