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‘SASQUATCH SUNSET’ Movie Review: A Tragicomedic Reflection On Our Connection to the Natural World

In these techno-centric times, it’s tempting to imagine a future where algorithms and artificial intelligence handle every facet of life, while we humans lounge in leisure, attended to by dutiful robots and drones. But this fanciful notion of a human race disconnected from nature comes at a steep price.

As much as we like to convince ourselves that we are superior beings, removed from the animal kingdom, the truth is that we remain deeply connected to all life on Earth. One legend that serves as a vital reference to our primitive origins is that of Bigfoot which reminds us that we would do well to recall our humble biological roots. Case in point: directors Nathan and David Zellner‘s evocative new film, Sasquatch Sunset, brilliantly captures this very idea through deft storytelling and stunning wildlife cinematography. Serving as a poetic ode to the wonders that still exist beyond our narrow human obsessions, the film reminds viewers of their vital ties to nature that technology will never replace.

Loosely inspired by the short film “Sasquatch Birth Journal No. 2,” which the Zellner’s shot in 2011, Sasquatch Sunset is an absurdist, dramatic and heartfelt tale set over the course of a year in the misty forests of North America, where a family of ape-like forest dwellers embark on an epic, hilarious and ultimately poignant journey. But, rather than just fascinate us with the antics of these notoriously elusive man beasts of the wild, it also makes us reflect on our own animal origins and question whether our supposed evolution has led to true progress.

Commenting on the film, actor Jesse Eisenberg said that he was glad that all his anxieties about appearance and vanity would not be a factor in the performance. This proved to be an accurate assessment, as the film embraces the bizarre, exaggerated, and even grotesque qualities of the Bigfoot character. With whimsy and heartbreak, we witness the absurdity of their predicament and Eisenberg, Riley Keough, Christophe Zajac-Denek and Nathan Zellner commit fully to embodying the extreme and unhinged antics called for in the script. But you have to see it all to believe it so we won’t spoil anything here. Suffice it to say that I thought I had seen a lot before going into this movie but there is A LOT I won’t ever be able to unsee after watching Sasquatch Sunset. Certainly some of the strangeness exists purely for eccentricity’s sake. However, the outlandish behaviors and traits connect, even indirectly, to universal human experiences and tendencies and this underlying relatability gives the comedy, tragedy and poignancy so much additional power.

The attention to detail and quality of the make-up and prosthetics in the film are undeniably impressive too. Working 99% percent of the time, the transformation of the actors into their characters is almost flawless. And the only reason I say 99% of the time is because I get the feeling that the remaining 1% of the props that are blatantly obvious rubber prosthetics were intentionally included for the sake of keeping in line with the film’s underlying tongue-in-cheek humor. Whatever the case, the actors are truly unrecognisable and it’s a sight to behold how well the actor’s facial expressions show through their bigfoot prosthetic faces, all obviously adding to the realism of the whole thing.

It was always going to be a difficult task to keep the audience engaged when having only sasquatches as characters due to not having the luxury of being able to use snappy dialogue or exciting action set pieces to drive the narrative along. So, one minor niggle for me is that at certain points, the pacing does drag slightly, resulting in certain sequences feeling prolonged without much narrative payoff. That said though, when the comic relief moments come along, the laughs hit harder because they emerge organically from the established tone and offer a healthy dose of vitality and dynamism to offset the slower, introspective sections of the film.

We can’t not also mention how The Octopus Project’s impeccable score complements the environment and atmosphere of every scene. Given that there’s virtually no dialogue in the movie (apart from expressive Sasquatch grunting, which I’m not sure if the actors improvised or if there’s some kind of linguistic construct going on), it’s hard to overstate how much intensity and emotion the music adds to the story.

Ultimately a profound examination of the intersection between myth, reality, and the human condition, Sasquatch Sunset resonates on a deeply human level through its masterful blend of hilarity and heartbreak. By providing a glimpse into the sadness and humor that comes with being disconnected from the modern world, the Zellner’s poignant story is sure to speak to anyone who has felt out of sync in our age of civilization.

VERDICT:

Sasquatch Sunrise releases exclusively in select theaters April 12 and opens nationwide April 19, 2024.

Where to watch SASQUATCH SUNSET
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