Deserted (2016)

After her release from jail for her mother’s murder, Jae goes back home to live with her brother.  As she is highly uncomfortable there, she decides to go with him and some friends to a music festival in the desert.  After encountering mechanical difficulties, they meet a group of guys traveling in an RV and get lost in the desert.  The beautiful location and landscape has them at ease at first until they realize they are lost and at risk of dying from the elements.  Written and directed by Ashley Avis, Deserted is one mellow movie where the lead is looking for herself as much as her way out of the desert.  The film processes in a slow fashion yet does not feel long or boring.  It follows Jae and her brother Robin along with old and new friends.  The dialogue seems genuine for the great majority of the film with a few hiccups that barely feel like such.  The characters don’t have much background from the start and a few bits and pieces are discovered along the way which works with the lead’s search of self.

Unnecessary information is kept out of the story and yet the bare minimum being presented feels like enough.  The characters are somewhat relatable to this mid-thirties reviewer yet they were not annoying in the lead’s cases.  A few of the characters are not people one would want to spend time with, but it works with the story’s thread.  The cast is interesting here with Misha Barton in the lead and Sebastian Bach in a small enough part to be called a cameo, both doing good in their respective parts.  Barton looks a bit more mature and serious here than her usual and it works for her.  She actually shows that she has some acting chops and takes a character with a dark past and a damaged soul making her someone a person with deep flaws and who had a lot of time to introspect before leaving jail yet she still finds out more about herself in the desert than she expected.  Playing opposite her and bringing the most to film are Jackson Davis as her brother Robin, Trent Ford as Troy, and Winter Ave Zoli as Rosemary.

These core actors bring the most to the film and create characters that pull different things out of Jae.  The aforementioned Sebastian Bach is great, which is something that could be described as “as usual,” which is still a surprising thing to think or say.  He has a screen presence that brings the attention to him and makes one wish she had more scenes.  These characters evolve mostly in the desert where the scenery is stunning almost throughout.  The cinematography by Garrett O’Brien takes full advantage of the location and lighting schemes in the desert sky, pulling images that look stunning and pull the viewer in.  The way he frames the scenes and choses the angles creates a look for the film that is smoothing while being stunning.  Working with these images is the music by Luigi Pulcini adds to the chill, relaxed atmosphere in most of the scenes, helping create the atmosphere.

Deserted is one of those films that will either work completely or not at all depending on each viewer.  For some the chill, relaxed atmosphere and soul searching will work great while for other, it may feel overly long and a touch boring.  However, if you go into it looking more for something introspective, you may very well like this movie a lot.  Deserted is less about surviving in the desert after being lost and more about discovery or rediscovery of self and the importance of family and friends in the face of tragedy and desperation.  It’s one of those movies for which it’s better to go in without any pre-established notions and just ready to go with the flow.