Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

Things Behind the Sun Reviews

A troubled singer who's attracting notice with a song about rape and a rock writer who knows more about her traumatic experience than he can bring himself to admit are brought together by their shared past in Allison Anders's intensely personal film. Every year for the past three years, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Sherry McGrale (Kim Dickens) has been arrested, drunk and disorderly, on the same day, on the lawn of the same modest Florida house. But this year, a judge orders her to attend a month's worth of AA meetings, and her arrest comes to the attention of an L.A.-based music magazine writer, Owen (Gabriel Mann), who realizes with a shock that he knows Sherry. What's more, he knows the story behind the song that might jumpstart Sherry's musical career, if she doesn't self-destruct first. The deceptively lyrical tune evokes Sherry's hazy, fragmented memories of surviving a brutal sexual assault, and Owen knows the rapist's identity — in fact, he knows more than that. Assigned to write a story, Owen discovers that the hard-drinking, rough-living Sherry doesn't remember him or their childhood friendship, and her protective manager/sometime-boyfriend, Chuck (Don Cheadle), resents the fact that Owen's in town to rake her over the coals of her tortured memories. Rooted in Anders's own rape as a 12-year-old and shot on Florida locations that figured in her childhood (including the house where she was assaulted), this potent drama might be dismissed as therapy in the guise of filmmaking if it weren't so clear-eyed. At its core are three remarkable performances. Dickens has the flashiest role, as a woman who's survived sexual violence but been malformed in the fire of the experience. But Cheadle's Chuck is a remarkable, nuanced creation: A profoundly decent man who loves Sherry ferociously, wants to save Sherry from herself and himself from Sherry's explosive unhappiness, and is neither a masochist nor a cardboard saint. And while Mann's character at first seems rather vague and tentative, he suddenly pulls Owen into painfully sharp focus. Their work is underscored by Anders's use of music (the film takes its title from a song by Nick Drake), not as a cheesy emotional cue, but as an integral component of her characters' lives: They express themselves, lose themselves in and try to make sense of their lives through popular songs. The film, shot on digital video, debuted on Showtime in August 2001 before receiving a limited theatrical release.