Review: Private Desert

Written and directed by Aly Muritiba, co-written by Henrique Dos Santos, Daniel is an exemplary policeman, but he ends up making a mistake and becoming suspended. With nothing keeping him in his hometown, he goes to visit his online love interest. Starring: Antonio Saboia, Pedro Fasanaro, Thomas Aquino, Laila Garin, Zezita Matos and Sandro Guerra.

With a story of a traditionally masculine man, finding out that his love interest is not exactly who he thought she was, you’d predict a journey of aggression and violence but thankfully that’s not the road Aly Muritiba and Henrique Dos Santos chose. It’s a genuinely pleasant surprise to see the tense, fraught story that they’ve created, which also takes its emotional cues from a modern, accepting world. It’s a slow moving exploration of conflict, identity and sexuality, there’s a huge atmosphere of frustration and suppressed emotion. It’s also touching upon internalized homophobia, sacrifice, religion and family. It’s delving into a lot of complexity but does so in an understated yet powerful style.

Muritiba’s directorial style follows much the same pattern, it opens with a sombre feel and it leans into a dark palette which is rich and atmospheric. The visual is dense with feeling, it captures the precipice that both leading characters find themselves upon. It moves with confidence and a compelling openness, as well as adding a touch of mystery to the mix. The balance that Muritiba creates of being almost forceful in tone while never throwing its emotions in your face is impressive.

It’s a quality which is well reflected in the leading performance from Antonio Saboia. A man who could easily be misjudged as typical when his portrayal of Daniel shows the evolved, caring and sensitive sides that hide beneath the surface. There is still the classic aggression and violence that comes with such frustration and confused identity but he manages to capture both that struggle and a compassionate, understanding person. Pedro Fasanaro shows another perspective of that same struggle, trying to figure themselves out while trapped within an entirely conservative environment. The portrayal is more vulnerable than Saboia’s, tapping into a less forthright personality, tripping themselves up over their hesitancy and desire to hold onto family, even though they hold hateful perspectives.

Private Desert is a compelling dive into identity and sexuality, following its characters as they push inwards to discover who they are and what they want. Led by a forceful yet sensitive performance from Antonio Saboia who wonderfully throws stereotypes for masculinity out of the window. It’s well directed, Luis Armando Arteaga’s cinematography has a rich aesthetic throughout. It’s slow, meaningful and unexpected.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯ | 8/10

Available now on Peccadillo POD, VOD & DVD

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