Directed by Ty Leisher and co-written with stars Brian Majestic, Danielle Passantino, and Bryan Stubbles, in a post apocalyptic future, a recently attacked woman struggles to befriend a dangerous drifter that could help her get back on the road. Also starring: Ed Morrone and August Thompson.
The film opens on a barren landscape, accompanied by a mysterious score that quickly sets the tone for its ominous story, it’s a combination that never fails to pull in a strong atmosphere so unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what it does. We see Callie (Passantino) standing along in the middle of nowhere, while Jim happens to be driving past, as she approaches the road to ask him to assist with her car, it’s revealed that she’s walking away from a man collapsed on the floor, leaving you to slowly discover the events that brought all of them together. Gradually there are more elements introduced to add to that mystery, while at the same time pointing you into the direction of what happened, it’s a good mix that simultaneously reveals itself and provokes more curiosity.
A consistent style that runs through the film is being understated, which permeates the acting, it’s a small cast of only four and they don’t spend their time with elongated dialogue, it’s minimal and uses just as much as it needs to get its point across. Passantino gives us Callie, a woman that we’ll never know that well, only getting 10-minutes with her but she’s a fascinating character, with strength, intelligence and dystopian savvy. Then Majestic gives us the kind, generous and a touch naïve man that is Jim, while Morrone doesn’t really get to say much but does well with what’s asked of him to be restrained but somewhat emotive. Lastly, there’s Thompson who only gets one sentence in the entire script and yet delivers it with an ending note of cold comedy and darkness.
The script is well written, the dialogue may be simple but there’s a hidden layer of complexity, especially when dealing with Callie. At this point, most people have probably watched enough films to learn that a character being considered a ‘pretty’ woman can mean that’s she one to watch out for, knowing how to use that perception makes them dangerous. It’s a great reversal of the underestimation of women, using it to your advantage rather than perpetuating the stereotype. There’s also a great number of hints to the direction that the film is heading, those that have watched more horror will probably spot them quicker but it’s a brilliant balance of leading you in the direction of where the film’s heading without throwing it in your face, allowing for some of the audience to be blindsided by it. It’s a key element to how they handle a dystopian story because it’s something that’s been done repeatedly so it’s vital to keep it feeling different and Leisher achieves that, it doesn’t have to go running through a million different aspects or dozens of characters, it capitalises on the mystery and intrigue.
Stranded gives you a couple of characters, a wonderfully lost in the desert style setting, an ominous atmosphere and a mystery to be solved, all of which lead you on a captivating journey. It’s well shot (cinematography by Will Turner), making use of the cinematic location and the direction brings in that sense of loneliness, desperation and fear, while remaining focused on its leads. Passantino and Majestic give strong performances that anchor the film and are supported by a well written script that understands the power of saying less to suggest more, as well as a score that perfectly strikes the tone (by Ryan Richko). This film will draw you in with a stab of fear and make you unable to look away until you find out what tricks they have up their sleeve.