Exclusive Review – Amercian Desert

American Desert
Adrian Bartol
Release Date
Adrian Bartol
Director / Producer / Writter / Composer

Adrian Bartol slams open the door of a complex world that ends up leaving a bittersweet taste. The mixture of hope the main protagonist evokes is tainted by the cruel and inevitable reality that his case is only one of many all over the world. The story follows Matt Benning (Will Brandt), a 24 years old man that has returned from Afghanistan to a wrecked economy. The audience is forced to contemplate a victim of war that never died in the field. A victim that stands among the ordinary people with their ordinary problems and in the end, gets mixed up with them. The demons of war that haunt Matt become a driving force to find consolation in absolutely anything; booze, drugs, trouble. Cornered by his psychological condition and a plethora of bad influences, Matt turns to the only thing Afghanistan and the United States appear to have in common; surrendering to the majestic and unforgiving isolation of the American Desert. 

The film employs quite the number of narrative resources going from trauma and booze to drugs, sex, abuse and violence to name most of them. And even though it struggles to escape the cliches within several scenes, it’s the use of the titular american desert what manages to stand out as an original and cathartic idea. Elevating the entire journey from a by-the-numbers realistic drama to a cautionary story that I’m sure will deeply connect to veterans and war affected people alike.

As a matter of fact, the ending message of the story does resemble what could be said of the technical aspects of the film. Truth be told, the budget limitations and lack of experience from the filmmaker are visible throughout the entire runtime. However, this does not mean that every single variable came crashing down to the ground. The main performances are all around good, with Michael Ironside standing out as a personal favorite of mine. The photography and art direction have ups and downs and with a bit more work could have found better ways to characterize different places to make them more identifiable. And finally, the editing does feel a choppy at times, showing a particular jump in many transitions from one location to the other.   

In the end, the experience provided by Bartol and his main star and friend Will Brandt suffers from some technical impediments that never really stop the enjoyment of the film but can be distracting at times. However, the love and effort put behind the project as a whole is definitely palpable and the message this film carries with it is one that should be heard. I am hopeful this is just the first of many projects and that Bartol is already improving his filmmaking skills to bring to the forefront more movies with important matters to discuss for a wider audience.

“Afghanistan taught me about the desert, I knew out here at least I had a chance.”

Exclusive Review – Amercian Desert
“American Desert” brings forth a complex point of view on the PTSD that young veterans go through. Even though it lacks the technical level that Hollywood and Netflix manage to output daily, it compensates for it with an intimate and sincere story and a beautifully unexpected decision towards the end. Definitely a respectable first effort within the cinematic industry.
Tackles important and humane themes in a realistic light.
Some technical issues can be improved for future projects.

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