One of the first films I viewed for this #52FilmsByWomen pledge was set in Death Valley and now I close out this year with another foray into that landscape. DESERTED is not an easy film because most of its characters are not particularly likable, including the protagonist. However, I found it a worthy watch because the characters are real, the dialogue and performances are so natural and the direction and photography of the film is stunning.
The story follows a group of people who I would never want to hang out with in life but I certainly know them and have crossed paths with these people many times. It begs the question, does a film need to have a relatable and likable cast of characters in order to succeed? Maybe. But maybe it’s worth taking a trip with people we wouldn’t normally respond to because the world is made up of all kinds and every individual experience is valid.
As a sucker for wilderness survival stories, I was engaged the entire time. Ashley Avis is an actor/model turned writer/director and I’ve known about her work for years. She has the eye of an artist and her experience as a commercial director for brands like Mercedes really comes to fruition in a place like Death Valley. Her shot composition and camera movement, married with some drop-dead gorgeous cinematography, is something special. She also captured an actual dust storm that takes this indie film to another level and she is able to deliver a striking film that looks far more expensive than it probably was. Avis clearly has a signature voice and a full slate of projects in development. I’m very eager to see what she could do with more emotionally accessible characters and look forward to what she does next.
DESERTED is available to stream on VOD.