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The Independent Critic

John Bain, Erica Curtis, Nathan Halliday
James Mann, Brandon Nicholas
James Mann
93 Mins.
Breaking Glass Pictures
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette; Deleted Scenes; Directors' Commentary; Theatrical Trailer; Interview with James Mann and Sound Designer; Desert Scenery Montage

 "Desert Son" Review 
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Phillip (John Bain) is a high school student cruelly dropped off in the middle of the desert by his abusive stepfather, left for days without food or water before collapsing and giving up. Unexpectedly, a beautiful orphan girl named Lucy (Erica Curtis) comes to his rescue and welcomes Phillip into her makeshift home in an abandoned ghost town with her boyfriend, Jack (Nathan Halliday), who is practically the mirror image of Phillip's abusive stepfather.

In their secluded existence, the three runaways patrol the desert on bikes and live a meager existence as petty thieves - at least until their world comes crashing down after one of their crime sprees ends in tragedy and the intertwining guilt and fear turns their fight for survival into a potential battle against each other.

It's not surprising that Desert Son, coming to DVD on April 26th from Breaking Glass Pictures, is a beautifully constructed and photographed film considering that writer and co-director James Mann has an extensive history working behind the camera on quite a few projects including television, shorts and indie features. Likewise, co-director Brandon Nicholas has an extensive background in production design and together the two have constructed an engrossing, involving and original dramatic thriller.

It helps, of course, to assemble a strong ensemble cast and Desert Son most assuredly has one. John Bain, a vet of several television appearances, is perfectly cast as the naive and possibly inappropriately optimistic Phillip, a young man who was on his way to tennis camp when his entire life was tossed to the side of the road. Nathan Halliday, who captured the Best Supporting Actor prize at the 2010 Method Fest, is a dark and tragic figure as the sort of anti-heroic Jack, a young man whose self-destructive nature seems almost built into his genetic code. As the young woman who is both maternal figure and sex object for these two companions, Erica Curtis is simply mesmerizing and unforgettable. There's no question that all three of these performers should see their workloads drastically increase.

James Mann's script is almost relentlessly harsh. Oh heck, who am I kidding? It IS relentlessly harsh, yet it's not devoid of humanity and, rather surprisingly, it's also quite endearing. Even though Mann has what would appear to be almost zero faith in the nuclear family, his characters still exude a sort of humanity keeps you glued to the screen.

Mann also serves as D.P. for the film, and his camera work is as unconventionally wonderful and moving as is his dialogue. Nicholas's production design perfectly sets the framework for the film, while even Heather Marie Bassett's costuming manages to blend both the innocence and wonder of youth with the harshness and desperation of reality.

Easily one of Breaking Glass's best DVD releases of the past year, Desert Son is a film you simply should not miss. For more information, check out the Desert Son website and the Breaking Glass Pictures website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic