(director/writer: Jesse Harris; cinematographer: Octavio Arias; editor: Luis Carballar; music: The Newton Brothers; cast: Jorge A. Jimenez (Guillermo), Leynar Gomez (Tomas), Lucy Hale (Elly),  Olivia Trujillo (Alex), Nicholas Gonzalez (Jose), Jaime Aymerich (Juan Manuel), Edward J. Bentley (Brody), Brendan McNamee (Trent); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producers; Nancy Cartwright, Monica Gil, Jesse Harris, Greg Lauritano, Damiano Tucci, Tiziano Tucci: Saban; 2022) 

“Its story is awkwardly told.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A slow-moving thriller written and directed by Jesse Harris (“Living Life”).

Elly (Lucy Hale) is a young white American loner botanist who has a problem of being addicted to prescription drugs and is doing a plant survey in the desert outside of San Diego along the Mexican border, called the Borrego Valley, of flowers that might be used as illegal drugs.

The film sends a stale message about illegal drugs and points out how drug addiction is a big problem in the States. It infers that more should be done to remove cartel smugglers on the Mexican border with the States.

Alex (Olivia Trujillo) is a hooky playing teenage girl who comes across Elly in the desert in the afternoon and hangs with her until it gets dark. Alex’s dad Jose (Nicholas Gonzalez) is the local sheriff, whose turf is the desert.

At night, Elly spots a small-engine plane crashing. When rushing to help the fallen pilot, Tomas (Leynar Gomez), he pulls a gun and takes her hostage. She’s kept alive only by telling the Mexican drug-runner, carrying packages of opioids, that she knows her way in the desert and can help him get to his destination at the Salton Sea. The two bond over a campfire, and she finds out he’s not a violent guy and finds some sympathy as to why he works for the cartel.

Meanwhile the dangerous Guillermo (Jorge A. Jimenez), who lives in a trailer in the desert and picks up the drugs for the cartel that arrive by the mules, searches for the pilot when he fails to appear–thinking he’s been double-crossed.

After the plane crash and Alex telling her father that Elly is not back in her motel, the sheriff investigates in the desert.

The film veers between these three stories, as for two days Elly is kept hostage in the hot desert, and treks on foot after her truck crashes.

When the three stories come together, the brooding Guillermo appears and violence occurs.

The movie begins and ends with a text about the drug trade—specifically in terms of the epidemic of prescription drug abuse.

 It never feels genuine, its story is awkwardly told and it goes to a lot of unnecessary trouble to tell such a simple story. 

REVIEWED ON 2/14/2022  GRADE: C+