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Sun Choke: There Are a Lot of Ways This World Can Hurt You

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sun Choke (2015). It is a film that will leave you with those nagging questions, a burning desire to know more. That might annoy some people, and in some instances, it annoys me. But as long as there is some mystery to mull over, and enough questions are answered that can lead you to your own conclusions, that’s a perfect formula for me. Like anything David Lynch has ever made, several possible answers are there, but they are open to interpretation—you can choose the one that sits best with you.

Sun Choke follows the story of Janie (Sarah Hagan from Freaks and Geeks) who undergoes radically intense treatments for her severe mental health disorder, cared for by a woman who has been her nanny her whole life, Irma (Barbara Crampton). As the treatments become more extreme, Janie seems not to get better but to go deeper into the psychosis that has gripped her. Recovering from a trauma, a cloudy piece of her life to the viewer, Janie teeters on the edge of complete insanity.

Barbara Crampton as Irma in Sun Choke holding a tuning fork with a wry smile

The film is a psychological horror, a character study of co-dependency and how the will to try to cure another person doesn’t always mean the best care for them, or that the one they’re trying to help will end up in any better shape than they were before. Sun Choke won’t give you all the answers; it doesn’t even ask all its own questions, leaving that heavy lifting to the audience. And I like that.

So much happens that you might find, at times, the story is hard to follow. It isn’t deliberately deceptive in that Cresciman doesn’t want you NOT to understand. He employs a non-linear narrative, flashing occasionally between past/present, while also keeping certain details from us. In this sense, being hard to follow doesn’t make you feel stupid. Revelations are saved for later. Instead of how some movies like to hit you with twist after twist, this story doesn’t come at you that way. It milks the tension and suspense perfectly.

Janie looks insane with anger

The anxiety grows from this up close and distressingly personal character study of Janie. Gradually, we peel away the layers of mystery surrounding her psychological state and what brought her to the tragic point of emotional fragility from which we begin the film’s journey. It’s hard for us to know how to feel about Janie because she’s our protagonist, while at the same time we’re privy to the despicable side of her character, too. Her obsession becomes frightening, which in turn becomes psychosexual in the most visceral way experiencing the lowest moments of Janie’s transgressions.

Sun Choke is a thought-provoking dissection of the psychosocial implications of good-intentioned but ultimately toxic protective care. If more ambiguous, yet wholeheartedly absorbing films directed by Lynch, Polanski and Aronofsky are up your street then you will probably enjoy Sun Choke which is now available to stream on Shudder.

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Written by Laura Stewart

Laura is the Assistant Editor-In-Chief, a Writer and Assistant to the Webmaster at 25YL. She has been part of the team since May 2017 when she began writing about her favourite TV show of all time: Twin Peaks. She currently oversees the Film, Music and Gaming Departments. 25YL is her passion project and is constantly delighted at how big and beautiful it has grown.

Laura lives by the sea in Gower, Wales, with her husband and very special little boy.

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