“Desolate” – Review (A Tense, Gritty, and Unrelenting Crime-Thriller!)

Desolate (2018) Poster 1“DESOLATE” is coming to select theaters and digital platforms on July 12th from director Frederick Cipoletti who also co-writes this one alongside Jonathan Rosenthal. Will Brittain, Callan Mulvey, Tyson Ritter, Bill Tangradi, and Johnathan Rosenthal fill out the cast. The story revolves around a family of farmers that are enduring the worst drought on record. Crops are barren and a family will force their youngest brother down a violent path to make ends meet after a mission of revenge unearths a secret among the other farming families.

Crime themed dramas are a favorite of mine. I have seen more than I can count and with that comes a standard of expected quality. The premise of this film sounded interesting with some valid potential and I have to say it surpassed itself on every level and blew me away. This story was a blend of genres that all complement the other perfectly. The collection of characters were unique each in their own way to provide solid additions to the plot-line with their gritty performances. But it also weaves many layers of unpredictability that results in a much higher level of intrigue than expected.

The story is consistently moving forward as are the character-arcs and the creative turns it makes throughout the run-time were able to lock in my attention. At the same time, it requires you to use your imagination to develop the backdrop for certain elements of the story. But it was not a case of underdevelopment. What you need to know, this film portrays and what it leaves to you, are the exact things you want to have an aura of mystery around. This added mental investment creates an engaging feeling while watching that makes the more dramatic moments hit with all the intensity they needed to.


As I mentioned the performances were all excellent for the needs of their roles. Will Brittain was solid as the focal character. I was able to connect with the desperation his character felt and with his sincere delivery of emotion. I wanted to take the grimy, seedy, and violent journey of this story with him to see how it would end. Callan Mulvey was awesome as this mysterious but highly capable character that you can never be certain of where his motives align. But there was also a shade of kindness in him that I felt Mulvey was able to turn on just as this film required of him.

The setting for this story was also beautifully captured. Cipoletti takes this film out on the countryside with some amazing camerawork that completed with Isaac Bauman’s cinematography and the production design perfectly. There are no signs of fabricated sets or studio backdrops and it creates an immersive atmosphere that can pull the viewer into the story. Aerial shots and wide camera pans are constantly capturing the setting of the scene and with real practical locations it creates a gritty intimacy that complements the tone of the narrative nicely.

A use of natural lighting also gives the film a realistic vibe that I loved. The story-line takes many dark turns as a group of brothers find their lives spiraling out of control in a very short amount of time. Things continually get darker as the brothers find themselves all in over their heads. And seeing how each of them handle it, as well as the effects it had on their relationships, only adds to the drama of a subtly haunting story. This may look like another indie with a small budget, but after watching I can easily say it rivals most in the genre that have ten times the financing.

GRADE: 90%