Rotting in the Sun 2023 film poster

Rotting in the Sun Film Review

Why I took it off the list: I was considering checking this film out at the Barcelona Americana Film Fest, but the fact it’s co-written and directed by Sebastián Silva put me off a bit.

I’ve seen a couple of his previous films, and wasn’t too much of a fan, finding them a bit too desperate to be indie and edgy, and overall indulgent.

However, I decided to give Rotting in the Sun a go as I was intrigued by the meta nature of the film, in which Silva and queer influencer Jordan Firstman play exaggerated versions of themselves.

Also, it seemed like this effort had an actual plot, something some of his previous films were sorely lacking.

So, let’s dig in!

Review of Rotting in the Sun (2023)

Casting himself as the lead character, filmmaker Sebastián Silva doesn’t paint himself in a very flattering light in Rotting in the Sun. We first meet him sitting in a park reading a nihilistic book called The Trouble with Being Born, and he soon gets into an argument over his dog when it wanders off and starts eating human feces.

To unwind from this stressful encounter, he goes home, takes a bump of ketamine, and passes out. He’s also rude and dismissive to his timid housekeeper Vero (The Maid‘s Catalina Saavedra).

In fact, nobody is very nice to each other in this film at all. When Silva’s friend Mateo comes over to photograph some of his art, he’s verbally abusive to him and even encourages his suicidal fantasies.

Silva, feeling burned out, decides to take a trip to a gay nudist beach. But finds he can’t relax here either, and everything continues to rub him the wrong way. He goes for a swim, but almost ends up drowning.

It’s here where he’s recognized on the beach by a fan, real-life influencer Jordan Firstman. Endlessly perky and persistent, Firstman convinces the reluctant Silva to collaborate on a project together.

Indulgent But Often Funny Satire

In its second half, Rotting in the Sun turns into a pitch-black comedy of errors. Without giving too much away, the 2 men’s plan to collaborate soon goes awry, and a corpse turns up. The focus then switches to Vero as she frantically tries to clean up what becomes a convoluted mess of secrets and lies.

Silva is clearly trying to satirize the world of privilege, as the characters with social currency are shown to be morally bankrupt, ignorant, and entitled, while those beneath them scramble to clean up their messes and survive their hubris.

What’s real and what’s invented for the film often becomes extremely blurry, and it’s admirable that both Silva and Firstman are so up for poking fun at their real-world counterparts so closely. It’s also pretty admirable that the film features so much graphic male full-frontal nudity and unsimulated sex, a daring move that adds to the naturalistic feel of the film.

Without the inclusion of Saavedra’s Vero, though, the film would simply be an excuse for hedonistic behavior. Her character adds a layer of satire of class to the proceedings, and much of the comedy and tension in the film comes from the face-off between downtrodden Vera and the endlessly entitled Firstman presented on screen.

Final score: 7/10

Rotting in the Sun (2023): Worth Watching?

Yes, Rotting in the Sun won’t be for everyone due to its meta tone, extremely black comedy, and explicit sexuality. But it’s an often funny and thoughtful genre mash-up that benefits from the committed, naturalistic performances of its cast.

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