American Desert

Veterans and the troubles they encounter when returning home has been the subject of many films of late. I hope this sheds light on the mental health issues, physical injuries as well as reintegration problems people returning from wars face and money is put into support for them. We ask them to risk their lives to maintain our way of life, so the least we could do is give them what they need upon return.

As for this film, it is full of the issues involved like violence, mental health and alcohol/drug abuse. While the intentions are good the film, putting it bluntly, isn’t. Due to the lack of quality the film is not going to further the discussion when it comes to support for veterans.

In 20210, 24-year-old Matt Benning (Will Brandt – appeared in episodes of Animal Kingdom and Jane the Virgin) has recently returned from serving in Afghanistan. Like many before and after him, the young veteran is having plenty of troubles. His problems include inadequate mental health follow up and having problems finding a job. One of those is solved after he meets Brandi (Ruby Modine – from television’s Shameless). She finds him a job and the two start dating.

The relationship does not make things better for Matt as Brandi is not very supportive of his mental health issues and is a meth addict. Despite the fact that they break up over the addiction, Matt misses her and when she comes back seeking help he takes her back. The trouble does not stop there as she is able to talk him into doing meth with her.

Matt finds himself transporting drugs for his Uncle Bill (Michael Ironside – Top Gun, Total Recall). He works for product/drugs rather than money leaving the couple always scrambling for cash. Desperate people lead to desperate behaviour which often results in bad things. To right himself, Matt turns to nature as he ventures out into the desert to get sober and a hold on his life.

The beauty of the desert, once Matt is there to clean himself up, is the strongest part of the film. Beautiful skies and vast unblemished vistas are a treat for the eyes. However, the story and acting do not do much for the brain or heart. You can tell that the director/co-screenwriter Adrian Bartol is passionate about the stories of veterans. His heart is in the right place but maybe he is too invested as he cannot seem to identify the problems with his film.

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