Director and writer Frederick Cipoletti and writer Jonathan Rosenthal bring us Desolate, a very aptly named piece about a town devastated by drought. Without anymore vegetation or cattle and property that is impossible to sell, the town seems to have been forgotten. In the obvious absence of any form of law enforcement, the townspeople begin to turn on each other in desperation. “Around here, people either get erased or forgotten,” [name of person] reminds us. (In fact, their situation becomes even more clear in one moment living in when a man who is about to be executed begins saying the Lord’s Prayer. “Those things don’t work anymore,” his executionor retorts.)
Desolate is mainly based around a father and four sons, the remaining members of the Stone family. Their family dynamic becomes more interesting as the brothers are sent out by their father on a mission of revenge. This entire film and largely based on acts of betrayal, revenge, desperation and survival. It is incredibly Shakespearean in its storyline.
The younger and more timid Stone brother, Billy (Will Brittain), seems torn between his family obligations and his love for Kayla (Natasha Bassett). There is a simultaneous respect and fear for the patriarch, Duke (James Russo). It’s clear that Billy and Kayla want a better life for themselves. They want to get out of town and out of the lives they were forced into. Billy clearly gets into situations he wouldn’t normally without the influence of his family. When someone tells Billy that “I know you didn’t get in all of this trouble all on your own”, he replies with “You don’t get to choose your family”.
With the lack of law enforcement in this town, drugs, weapons, and forced prostitution run rampant. Infuriatingly, women are chained up in empty rooms and used at the leisure of others. People make drugs in their homes to sell and guns seem to be necessary commodities. Desolate brings the twists and turns of never knowing who is trustworthy and who may turn on you at any moment. This film has an oddly somber tone despite how action-filled and dark it is.
Desolate is a very fascinating and thought-provoking concept and I commend the writers for their boldness. Although, the execution of the story was lacking, I am impressed overall at the work and the poetic ending left me pondering what would happen next.
Desolate leaves its mark in theatres and on digital on Friday, July 12th, 2019