By midlandsmovies, May 5 2020 09:07AM
Directed by Kemal Yildirim
Kemikal Films & Rose the Film Ltd
Wastelands is a new feature film starring Natasha Linton as Alice, a lonely and disturbed woman whose OCD and self-destructive lifestyle choices have a devastating effect on her and her loved ones’ lives.
Her lonely existence begins as she works in a café, clearing up mess as part of her obsessive nature and the film introduces her with very few lines of dialogue. Alice’s life is shown with a melancholy and sympathetic camera whilst the film’s screeching string score and dark sounds build an air of disturbing intrigue.
With her violent hair brushing and scrubbing of herself in the shower, we witness her fixation on cleanliness which is punctuated with inserts of dreamworld flashbacks of intense sex and arguments.
The opening 10 minutes gives good scene setting with almost no dialogue. But bar a few sentences the first dramatic conversation really takes place 20 minutes in. The film then presents an almost experimental tone with a lot of the narrative either implied or hinted upon, leaving the audience somewhat to themselves to put the puzzle pieces together.
We later find her father is ill in a care home as her mother returns to Alice after a period apart describing her as a “family wrecker”. Alice is then left in the situation of being forced to care for her father at her own home.
The high-quality cinematography shows Alice increasing agitated with her fractured life and there is a fair few explicit, and sometimes troubling, scenes of passionate encounters with a male companion.
These multiple sex scenes are mostly non-exploitative although much like the film’s character exploration and silent scenes of an unsettled woman, they can get a bit repetitive. They neither push forward nor illuminate the storyline to any great extent.
Literally scrubbing herself of the past in various scenes, the film attempts to mix the standard themes of violence and sex as well as throwing in some family drama. Alice seems to want to burn aspects of her life whilst she often does not help herself – trapped as she is in a situation of her own making as she seeks an erotic outlet.
The film’s downfall is its elongated sequences of Alice’s life. From helping her father, they serve to demonstrate the daily grind she must go through, but in all honesty are a bit of a long-winded grind to watch. They are not illuminating that much more after 10 minutes than what you could not get in the first 1 minute of a scene.
Wastelands does have has much going for it though. The central performance is mysterious enough to keep your interest in her development, but there are hints of directorial self-indulgence. After an hour of extended padding, interest did start to wane a little. The unconventional lack of dialogue was not intense enough and its unrushed pace started to slow the narrative down as well.
However, there are some rewards to sticking with the question marks posited around the family’s history. The clues are only hinted upon throughout and these revelations are mostly resolved at its conclusion. It mixes the silent introspection of Only God Forgives with some 50 Shades of Grey sexual potency so if that sounds up your street, check out Wastelands as an arthouse curiosity for the avant-garde cinema crowd.