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Parents' Guide to


By Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Simplistic but gripping thriller has violence vs. migrants.

Movie R 2016 94 minutes
Desierto Poster Image

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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.

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