Sue is the portrait of a woman slipping slowly into mental illness after the loss of her job. Although Amos Kollek's protagonist is reminiscent of Roman Polanski's Carol (Catherine Deneuve) in Repulsion, his film lacks the dramatic structure that makes Polanski's so disturbing. Polanski's subjective portrayal drags us into madness, while Kollek's provides a static picture of alienation. Polanski evokes pathos. Kollek turns us into voyeurs. As Sue, Anna Thomson (The Crow) manages to capture that soulless quality we associate with people who have become detached from their own emotions, but she's two-dimensional-Kollek doesn't give her a past. Her inevitable breakdown is sad, but it's not dramatic. While Polanski's Carol goes out in a blaze of bloodletting, Kollek's Sue falls asleep on a park bench.
Sue was shot in 14 days by Kollek, a fiction writer and director whose previous films include Goodbye, New York and Double Edge, as well as a documentary about the life of his father Teddy Kollek, a former mayor of Jerusalem. Sue is remarkable for its technical achievements; certainly, the film doesn't look or sound like a low-budget independent. Kollek uses exaggerated ambient sound to signal Sue's increasing alienation-a technique employed so well by Polanski-and he uses lighting in both interior and exterior shots to enhance the thematical elements of the film. Shooting in December gave Kollek outdoor light that's winter dull, perfect for reflecting the stasis of Sue's emotional life. Interiors are spotted with light that's rarely focused on the actors. In fact, everyone but Ben, a travel writer who falls in love with Sue, seems to be choreographed to move away from the light or into shadow; like Sue, they're being swallowed up by darkness.
Kollek's protagonist moved to New York to find her fortune, but ends up working in a law firm to support herself. Most New Yorkers know someone who's living the same sort of life-the circumstances of Sue's decline are realistic. People lose their jobs, run out of money, and get evicted from their apartments. However, Kollek's existential take on the story doesn't provide Sue with a past. Her life is like a one-paragraph human-interest item buried deep in the last section of the local newspaper; you're left to wonder what drove Sue to her present state. In fact, Kollek remains an indifferent observer of a life that is quickly being devoured by mental illness and so, by extension, do we, the voyeurs peering through the window of Kollek's camera. Profound it's not-other filmmakers have done it better, including Polanski and Antonioni (in Red Desert). Worse, because we have no insight into the character's motivations, it's Kollek's presence, rather than Sue's alienation, which drives the film.
Sue is a tedious 90 minutes, broken only by a few well-written vignettes, one involving Lola, a drug addict played by Tahnee Welch, Raquel's daughter.