‘3 Nights in the Desert’ MOVIE REVIEW: A Stagnant Plot as Dry as the Film’s Setting

Image via New Artists Alliance
Image via New Artists Alliance

After six years of estrangement, Anna, Barry and Travis reunite to celebrate their 30th birthdays, which all happen to fall in the same week. The three were part of a promising rock band in their early twenties until different priorities and a clichéd love triangle interfered. Anna has ‘made it’ as a pop singer overseas, Barry has traded in the drums for a wife and a stable 9-5 career, while Travis is living a reclusive life in the desert, spending his days fixated on the trio’s fallen potential. Keen to further romanticize the past, this desert reunion is Travis’ attempt to remind his old friends of the dream they once shared.

For a film about three ex-band mates who were supposedly set for stardom, any alleged chemistry is seemingly absent and the brief moments of musical display are particularly unconvincing. However, the actors themselves make good attempts at bringing to life Cowan’s largely inaccessible characters and weak dialogue. Anna (Amber Tamblyn), the ‘sellout’ musician and the centerpiece of harbored sexual and romantic tension between the three, seems particularly undeveloped. Though, her character does manage to balance out the unsettling vibes often given off by tortured-soul guitarist, Travis (Wes Bentley), who goes to strange lengths to convince his friends that they aren’t truly happy.

Image via New Artists Alliance
Image via New Artists Alliance

The picturesque landscape of the Joshua Tree National Park provides a beautiful backdrop for the slow unfolding of events. With only three characters and one single setting, the melancholic obscurity endured throughout the film quickly grows tired and repetitive, salvaged only by the film’s admirable soundtrack. Had 3 Nights In The Desert delivered more in the way of plot and characterization, this impressive soundtrack would perfectly compliment a thought-provoking piece exploring friendship, love and letting go, which is, in essence, what 3 Nights In The Desert is attempting to explore. The film’s frustrating potential made it difficult to swallow, with the stagnant plot as dry as the desert landscape itself at times.

It is uncertain how director Gabriel Cowan wants the audience to feel at the end of 3 Nights In The Desert, which is part of what makes this film so forgettable. While Cowan teases the audience with occasional glimpses of poignancy and whimsical nostalgia, these moments often come off as corny attempts at gravitas and are overshadowed by the film’s failure to reach any real sense of resolution. While it seems as though Cowan is building up to some sort of grand resolve, he only manages to conclude the film by raising further disheartening, existential questions about the impermanence of friendships and dreams.