At first, this comes off as a decent-enough coming-of-age movie about four young adults who have lived and partied together. Something like Trainspotting (sans the heroin) meets The Real World. The characters are more or less familiar archetypes -- brooding writer, remorseful party girl, etc. -- who are clearly on the verge of changing more than just their place of residence. They all go out together for one last night of nightclubbing, boozing, and drug taking. It all seems familiar and safely within the purview of countless indie movies. But then, around the halfway point, the movie shifts into a dramatic turn -- explosive, uncomfortable, and thoroughly engaging -- and the expected becomes unexpected, intense, and gripping.
The movie is based on a play, and as it moves into the second half, it's easy to see the play's roots as the story relies on the incredible acting of the four lead characters. With less-skilled actors, Who Would You Take to a Deserted Island? could easily come off as mawkish and overblown, but the overall effect is like a tornado ripped through the apartment of the four lead characters, and the immediate aftermath is shocking in how everything seems to fall apart so quickly. And yet, unlike so many coming-of-age movies that make the dreams and ambitions of the characters into a zero-sum game of either pursuing one's dreams or else compromising with a dead-end job to make ends meet, the denouement offers a ray of hope that there is, in fact, a possibility for creative life after adulthood.