If a film set in the summer starts off by playing a remix of Jingle Bells accompanied by the title in neon lights, you already know what you’re getting yourself into. This dark comedy thriller is a medley of ludicrous scenarios, eccentric characters, normalised nudity, and explicit sex scenes. In the UK, the film obtained a limited theatrical release consisting of ‘one night only’ screenings. After watching Rotting in the Sun in all its fantastic kitsch-like glory, it’s not hard to understand why.
The film follows a self-pitying Sebastián Silva who visits a gay nudist beach in hopes of restoring his sanity. There he meets clingy influencer Jordan Firstman who pitches him an idea for a TV show. Meanwhile, landlord Mateo (Mateo Riestra) and Sebastián continually disregard their cleaning lady Señora Verónica (Catalina Saavedra) who, much to her dismay, ends up caught in the midst of the drama.
Rotting in the Sun is a self-reflexive film where Sebastián and Jordan mockingly play exaggerated versions of themselves. In real life, Jordan is an online personality known for his impressions of mundane situations on his Instagram story. When making the film, director Sebastián Silva stated he aimed to satirically “Make fun of everyone”. This certainly shows that all characters lack sense in such a self-aware way that makes the dialogue so entertaining to watch.
Silva’s film is inherently unrestrained and often abhorrent due to its explicit display of sex. It’s not a film made for everyone and requires a vulture-like stomach to digest what’s happening on screen. I’m usually sceptical of such usage of sex and nudity as often it is merely a weird spectacle and adds nothing to the overall plot. Interestingly, however, Rotting in the Sun does not use sex and nudity to portray intimacy but rather to add to the film’s unusual comedic sensibility. The audience becomes just as confused as Sebastián to the amount of genitals shoved in our faces. In this sense, Rotting in the Sun is an anomaly as the abundance of nudity makes sense within the film despite how insane it is.
Contrary to how the film is being marketed, Rotting in the Sun is surprisingly multifaceted. It starts off as an outlandish display of hedonism, then switches to a hilariously portrayed thriller before ultimately resulting in the redemption of the precariat worker. The film is impulsive in nature, moving from one scene to another in quick succession with no help from the handheld camera to orient audiences either. It’ll give you mental whiplash from all the crude things happening on screen, yet it’s too good to look away.
Rotting in the Sun is available on Mubi