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.
51/52 THE INTERVENTION
I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, saying that I was a little creatively frustrated. Being an actor is such a weird thing, because you have to rely on so many other people to get to the place where you are able to express yourself creatively. We were talking about just making stuff on our own, but then it’s hard, you need financing and things are expensive. I had written this other script that I really liked, but it would have been too pricey. No one was going to give five million dollars to make a movie. So I had this really simple idea and I told to him the idea for this movie, the premise of friends who do a relationship intervention, and he thought it was a funny idea. He encouraged me to go home and write it, and I just wrote it.
Actor Clea Duvall wrote, directed, executive produced and played a supporting role in this film and it’s everything you want an ensemble film to be–smart, funny, relatable and touching, with great moments for every single actor.
A weekend getaway for four couples takes a sharp turn when one of the couples discovers the entire trip was orchestrated to host an intervention on their marriage.
Duvall couldn’t have assembled a better cast and the heart of the movie is Melanie Lynskey–one of my very favorite actors who I virtually follow around to watch anything and everything she does. Here she gets the chance to show off her considerable comedic talents in a role written for her by Duvall. She’s surrounded by a host of excellent performances, a beautiful production design and gorgeous photography by Polly Morgan–which is worth noting since female cinematographers are somewhat rare. This is an engaging and uplifting film experience from start to finish. THE INTERVENTION is available on VOD.