Movies about down-and-out souls often fall into the same quaint trap: They turn their characters into sad, little-people nobodies meant to tug at our heartstrings. The beauty of Jonathan Nossiter’s haunting neorealist mystery, which took the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is that even as its wayward heroes have fallen through the cracks of life, they still have big, recalcitrant egos. On a Sunday morning in Queens, Oliver (David Suchet), dumpy and beady-eyed, awakens in a men’s homeless shelter and wanders into the crisp wintry day. He’s accosted by Madeleine (Lisa Harrow), a fallen beauty toting a half-dead palm tree, who instantly recognizes him as the famous film director Matthew Delacorta. But is he Matthew Delacorta? Sunday has a lyrical, lapidary structure that teases us with the revelation of its characters’ identities: who they are, who they imagine themselves to be, and where the two meet. Oliver and Madeleine lie like demons, manipulate each other with a ferocity that borders on the poetic, and engage in raw, hungry sex. Nossiter sees the passions of broken lives, but he also preserves their brokenness. Suchet, out from behind his Hercule Poirot mustache, gets so far inside Oliver’s flinty reserve that it may not be until the last lonely image that you realize he’s created an indelible portrait of silent desperation. A

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