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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie doesn't offer many specific opinions on the issue of immigration, instead suggesting a simplistic good-guys-vs-bad-guys scenario. But it could still stimulate discussion on a topic that's a good deal more complex than how it tends to be portrayed.
Positive Role Models
Even the movie's hero resorts to iffy tactics and behavior in order to survive.
Violence & Scariness
Shooting and killing from a high-powered rifle. Blood spurts, bloody puddles, dead bodies shown. Dog attacks, ripping at people's throats. Dog killed with a flare gun. Vehicle crash. Dead rabbit. A man gropes at a young woman despite her protests. Fall from height. Broken limbs. Rattlesnakes.
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Strong language in both Spanish (with English subtitles) and English includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," plus "motherf----r," "ass," "balls," "hell," "goddamn," "scum bags," "jerk," "oh my God" and "Jesus Christ" (as exclamations).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The main villain swigs several times from a bottle of whisky, with no discernible effects. Cigarette smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Desierto is a thriller about a white American who ruthlessly hunts Mexican migrants near the countries' border. Violence is frequent and intense, with shooting and killing, blood spurts and bloody pools, dead bodies, animals killed in horrific ways, a vehicle crash, and other tense moments. Language is also strong, with multiple uses of "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole" (spoken in both English and Spanish, with English subtitles). A man gropes at a young woman despite her protests. The villain regularly drinks whisky from a bottle and smokes cigarettes, with no consequences. It's an effective thriller, though perhaps simplistic in terms of social commentary around the issues of race and immigration. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This minimalist thriller is not only expertly constructed and relentlessly gripping, but it's also very timely. That said, socially aware viewers may bemoan a lack of commentary in such a simple movie. Director/co-writer Jonas Cuaron -- son of Oscar-winning filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron -- previously co-wrote the screenplay for Gravity along with his father. Here he takes the idea of survival in a vast, harsh environment to a different place.
Cuaron's sense of place and action are excellent, even if the occasional hand-held camera (understandable given the terrain) calls attention to itself. Shots race up and down dry riverbeds and stone outcroppings, through cactus patches and piles of rattlesnakes. The movie's editing and music are also superb, clicking together as a fine example of tense genre filmmaking. The issues of racism and immigration aren't dealt with at all, other than that the white characters are bad, and the Mexican characters are good. But perhaps Desierto's lack of message-mongering will allow viewers to come to their own conclusions.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.