'The Misguided': Film Review

Slack and unaffecting.

Shannon Alexander's debut feature concerns two drug-dealing brothers and the young woman at the center of their orbit.

The title provides an apt description of the central characters in Shannon Alexander's dark comedy set in Perth, Australia. Depicting the misadventures of two misfit, drug-dealing brothers and the well-heeled college girl who makes the mistake of getting romantically involved with both of them, The Misguided has its amusing moments but ultimately seems as aimless as the figures at its center.

The story begins with college dropout and all-around loser Levi (Caleb Galati) showing up at his older brother's house in need of a place to crash after being kicked out by his girlfriend. His sibling is no prize either: Wendel (Steven M. Johaljevich) scrounges up a living selling whatever drugs he has left over after partaking of them himself.  

Not long afterwards, Wendel's ex-girlfriend Sanja (Jasmine Nibali) shows up at the house with her younger sister Vesna (Katherine Langford) in tow. It seems that Wendel had "borrowed" Sanja's car weeks earlier and apparently felt no need to return it after they split up. In Wendel's absence, Levi gallantly returns the vehicle to Sanja and romantic sparks soon fly between them.

The two lovers face numerous obstacles to their relationship and their plans to leave the city together. Sanja's protective and physically imposing father (Athan Bellos) has little use for her new boyfriend who has no money and little legal prospect of getting any. And after temporarily moving in with Wendel, who's remarkably casual about his brother's relationship with his former girlfriend, they find themselves caught up in intrigue resulting from his owing his drug connection (Clay Foster) a considerable amount of money.

Alexander, who not only wrote, directed and produced this feature debut but photographed and edited it as well, takes a decidedly low-key approach to the narrative, with the result that The Misguided ambles along at a languid, uncompelling pace. The love story involving Levi and Sanja provides the main focus, but neither character is particularly interesting and the young performers aren't able to breathe much life into them. It's Wendel, charismatically played by Johaljevich, who proves the most compelling if repellant figure, with the film suffering during the long stretches he's offscreen.

Bellos makes the most of his small role as the concerned but belligerent dad, but Langford — more prominently billed because of her Golden Globe nomination for Netflix's 13 Reasons Why — has less impact and little screen time.

As if to make up for the thinness of the material, the filmmaker infuses occasional stylization into the proceedings in the form of VHS tape-style glitches that serve little thematic purpose and prove mostly distracting.

Production company: Early Autumn
Distributor: Indie Rights
Cast: Caleb Galati, Steven M. Mihaljevich, Katherine Langford, Jasmine Nibali, Kirstie Francis, Athan Bellow, Blade Willison, Clay Foster, Anna Philp
Director-screenwriter-producer-director of photography-editor: Shannon Alexander
Executive producers: Mike Karlos, Cav Daniels, Alex Goreceli
Composers: Russell Kendall Johnson, Erick Michael Fisher, Steven J. Mihaljevich

88 minutes