This intentionally Hitchcockian mystery successfully builds a stifling atmosphere of tension that doesn't resolve until the very last scene. The threat of violence hovers over Windfall like the hot air you imagine imbues the dry California setting. But when it comes, it still takes you by surprise -- and that would seem to be the point.
Windfall's script is constructed in such a way that not a lot happens and even less is revealed about the characters, yet it draws you into the mystery of what you do know. Who is the burglar, why has he chosen this house, and what's behind the added layer of tension between the couple? The film's title hints at further themes of economic injustice -- coming into serious money in unethical if not illegal ways.
Early on, it's hard to know how dark the film will get. The characters -- backed by understated performances -- are surprisingly relaxed and even agreeable at moments, and there are fleeting hints of comedy. The gorgeous, sun-filled vacation home -- with its white-washed walls, luxuriously rustic pool and gardens, and seemingly infinite citrus orchards -- conveys an openness and lightness despite the claustrophobic setup of characters stuck together against their will.
Opening scenes set to ambient noise capture the setting from a series of unusual angles and show a man wandering around enjoying the amenities. From this start, a feeling of unease is underscored by the contrast of setting and story, puzzling characters, and suspenseful instrumental music. While the combination may feel too studied or too intentional for some viewers, it works if you settle in and go along for the ride.
Read the full review at Common Sense Media.