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Film Review: Sunday's Illness

by Ramon SalazarNetflix Film
reviewed by Bilge Ebiri
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Film screenshot - Courtesy Netflix

AN INTIMATE FAMILY DRAMA shot like a slow-burn horror movie, Spanish director Ramon Salazar’s film centers on an odd, evocative arrangement: An aging, wealthy woman is confronted out of the blue by the adult daughter she abandoned many years before when the girl was 8. Now the daughter wants the mother, who has since remarried, to spend 10 days with her in the house they shared so long ago. After that, the daughter promises never to see her mother again. The two women are awkward and tense around each other, and Salazar makes sure to draw out every scene with pregnant pauses, lengthy shots, and terse dialogue exchanges. But he also has a tendency to cut out of a scene just as it’s getting interesting—right as a character might say something that threatens to send the dynamic between these two women in a new direction.

THESE WOMEN MANAGE TO CONVEY THEIR CHARACTERS’ INNER LIVES WITH MERE GLANCES AND GESTURES

The result is an atmospheric, perplexing, and ultimately absorbing film. The two central performances are terrific— these women manage to convey their characters’ inner lives with mere glances and gestures—and the story gathers force as it proceeds in twists and turns. There’s a lot more going on with the daughter than she first lets on. (Hint: Note the title.) But it’s not a particularly dramatic revelation when it finally comes, and one suspects that the director hopes we’ll catch onto it long before anybody in the film actually says anything. But Sunday’s Illness isn’t really about the story. It’s about watching these two very different people try to discover parts of their lives and personalities they buried long ago. —BILGE EBIRI


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