Rotting in the Sun

The comedy Rotting in the Sun opens with director Sebastián Silva (playing himself) sitting in a park, where he observes a homeless man defecating in the bushes. That doesn't bother him too much. What does bother him is when his dog runs over and eats that homeless man's feces. This is the first warning that the movie is going to attempt to shock and provoke you. And it does, thanks to edgy subject matter, frequent drug use, shots of unsimulated sex, and penises. Lots and lots of penises. Possibly a world record number of them in a single film.

Depressed and suicidal, the Ketamine-addicted Sebastián is considering taking an overdose of "dog poison." An acquaintance suggests he visit Zicateca, a nude beach that's a popular vacation spot among gay men. He does indeed go there, where he encounters the aforementioned penises. Sebastián also meets social media influencer Jordan Firstman (playing himself). Jordan wants him to collaborate on a TV series. The idea seems stupid until Sebastián is back home in Mexico City and unsuccessfully pitches his newest ideas to HBO. One mention of Jordan's name and suddenly he has a deal.

Saying much more about this extreme cringe comedy would be to rob it of its effect. I'll just say that Jordan arrives to work on the show, only to find Sebastián missing. His attempts to get answers are repeatedly stonewalled by the housekeeper, Vero (Catalina Saavedra). From there, the movie evolves into a wacky detective-style tale, with Jordan searching for an explanation.

Rotting in the Sun is intriguing because you can interpret what Silva is going for in a number of ways. The film defies easy categorization. Humor is mined from the repressed Sebastián's reaction to Jordan's unapologetic sexcapades, from drug use, and from the unpleasant details of the disappearance. Is it just an act of self-mockery, a satire of creative bankruptcy, a mediation on depression, or something else?

For me, the story is about the maturation of an artist. Sebastián is successful, yet out of good ideas, hence his malaise. Jordan makes silly, stupid videos designed to get attention. Trying to solve the mystery of his friend's disappearance forces him to grow up and start looking at the world in a mature manner. It's humorous that he doesn't know how to do that at first, so his "hit like and follow" influencer mentality comes out. By the end, he's not nearly as jovial. What he makes next will undoubtedly be more substantive.

Rotting in the Sun has good performances from Silva and Firstman. The scene-stealer, though, is Saavedra. With her wonderfully expressive face, the actress earns big laughs showing Vero’s reactions to the madness around her. Vulgar, outrageous, risqué, and often funny, the film will – by design - offend a percentage of viewers. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as it is.

out of four

Rotting in the Sun is unrated, but contains strong language, drug use, graphic nudity, and explicit sex. The running time is 1 hour and 51 minutes.