Private Desert ***
Starring: Antonio Saboia, Pedro Fasanaro, Thomas Aquino
Director: Aly Muritiba
When policeman Daniel (Saboia) is put under investigation following the use of excessive force during an incident, he realises there is nothing keeping him in his hometown. For a while he has been speaking to a woman online, with whom he has become doggedly obsessed. With nothing to lose, he sets out across the country to find her, completely unaware that the person he’s been speaking to is actually Robson (Fasanaro), a young man who has created an online drag persona.
The film staggers slowly through a lot of exposition in its opening scenes. Daniel’s backstory is given far too much screentime, dominating the entire first thirty minutes; which is a shame because when it does actually find its feet, the story is really quite compelling. Drenched in dramatic irony, this catfish romantic drama rips the scab off the “trans panic” debate, before settling comfortably on a more rounded point of view.
Daniel is a man grounded in his masculinity. The upset in his life has given way to upset in his self-perception, leading him down paths that he might not otherwise have tried. Saboia is likeable, brutish but warm. Counterpoint, Fasanaro makes for a whafish and decidedly average boy, but the intensity and passion exuding from the character he has created is enough to sweep both up in a fantastical idealistic whimsy that they have both bought into. However, the film is far from a whimsical.
Realistic, serious and totally genuine, this is a cold film with a warm heart. It’s decidedly gentle but still manages to find time for a big old power ballad too. It might not be a grand romance for the ages, but Private Desert is certainly a love-story with a unique hook that will live with you after the credits roll. It’s just a shame it faffs about along the way.
UK Release: 24th April 2023 on VOD, released by Peccadillo Pictures