Pavan Moondi has a wonderful gift for showcasing people whose lives are in desperate need of change. In both Everyday is Like Sunday and Diamond Tongues he looked at individuals, post-grad students and a struggling actress respectively, whose career and relationship stagnations are often products of their own self-sabotage. Though they dream of more fulfilling pastures, the comfortable lure of their drab existence proves too hard to break.
This is the situation that Alex (Phil Hanley) and his best pal Justin (Luke Lalonde) find themselves in during Moondi’s latest comedy Sundowners. Working as a wedding videographer for a boss, Tom (Tim Heidecker), who finds creative ways to justify not paying him, Alex has dreams of becoming a fulltime filmmaker. When Tom books him to film a destination wedding, and allows him to pick his own photographer for the assignment, Alex sees it as the perfect opportunity for he and Justin to getaway from the banality of their current existence.
Planning to give Justin a crash course in photography, at least enough so that he can fake his way through the wedding, Alex hopes that the Mexico trip will offer the life-changing revelation he needs. Justin is not without his own problems though. Taking care of his ailing grandmother, and stuck in a dead-end office job, Justin recently learned that his ex-girlfriend aborted a child he never knew she was carrying. As the two men fumble their way through the wedding and drunken nights they are forced to face the facts that running away from ones problems does not erase them.
Anchored by Moondi’s trademark witty dialogue, Sundowners avoids many of the conventional tropes that one would expect from the premise. While the film has its share of odd peripheral characters, most of whom are associated with the wedding, there are no cheap men behaving badly laughs. There is a surprising and sufficient amount of pathos laced into the fiber of the film.
Tackling thirty-something disenfranchisement with the same intelligent humour that Whit Stillman employs to dissect social classism, Moondi once again shows why he is one of the Canadian directors to watch. He brings a brilliant mixture of wit, dejection and anxiety to his characters, while never losing faith that one day they will put on their grown-up pants and take that necessary step forward.
It is this earnest appreciation of his characters, and his desire to keep much of the comedy grounded in reality, that make Alex and Justin’s plight so interesting to watch. Whether it is the way Alex’s desperation often manifest in his awkward conversations with women, which is a direct contrast to the effortless way Justin attracts members of both sexes, or Justin’s reluctance to see possibility of something greater beyond the cloudy bubble his life is encased in, there is an earnest familiarity to these men that is relatable.
Growing in confidence with each film, both from a script and visual standpoint, it is only a matter of time before Moondi becomes the household name he deserves to be.