Cinematic Releases: The Misguided (2018) - Reviewed

Drug addiction and its toll on family and loved ones is a common cinematic theme.  The stories follow certain arcs and almost always end with devastation.  Australian director Shannon Alexander's pitch-black comedy is a departure from many of the established conventions of the genre.  Featuring a dialogue heavy, character focused script and some unexpectedly sly camera work, The Misguided is an inverted cautionary tale of addiction, both to substances and those we love.  

Levi is dating the ex-girlfriend of his destructive brother Wendel.  When Wendel finds himself in a dangerous predicament, Levi tries to save his brother and remain loyal to his partner, both of which have unexpected consequences.  Alexander's screenplay has an unmistakably lived in feel to it.  The characters are real, their motivations plausible, and while most of them are despicable, the viewer can't help but to be endeared. Steven J. Mihaljevich's scene stealing performance as Wendel is the centerpiece.  His Wendel is an odious black star around which everything circles in a decaying orbit, pulled in by his potent charisma before being desolated by the wake of terrible decisions. His chemistry with Caleb Galati as Levi is natural and fluid, a direct indication of Alexander's understanding of the complications of familial relationships.  Jasmine Nibali rounds or the cast as Levi's girlfriend Sanja.  While the brothers are the focus, her embodiment of a privileged young woman attracted to danger is outstanding.  Her Sanja is smart and empowered, yet naive in matters of the heart and it is her personal cycle that is one of the film's more interesting stories.  

Alexander also shot the film and his breezy cinematography captures the urban locales of Perth with washed out grays and artificial light.  The city itself, with vacant lots and gorgeous houses is almost a character unto itself, as locations play important parts in the film’s mischief.  The movie is presented as a quasi-surveillance video, replete with VHS type skipping and slick editing choices (also done by Alexander), reinforcing the synthetic world that addicts often inhabit.  It is a constant reminder that the bottom will eventually fall out and that despite best intentions, eventually, there is a reckoning.  The result is a charming independent cinematic experience with some outright hilarious moments dappled throughout. 

Coming to theaters and digital on demand tomorrow, The Misguided is an excellent foray into the world of addiction.  It is a lonely place of self-obsession, betrayal, and sometimes violence.  Beyond this, lies a story about brotherhood and repetitive cycles of self-destruction.  At its core, this is a film that explores bad choices and why they are so attractive.  This is a promising debut from a director who shows not only competent command, but a deep understanding of his subject matter.  

--Kyle Jonathan