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The Misguided is a drama/dark comedy and is the feature film debut of Shannon Alexander who directed, produced, wrote, edited and shot this Australian flick, a real passion project clearly. The story is centred around Levi (Caleb Galati), an unemployed university dropout who moves in with his drug dealing brother Wendel (Steven M. Johaljevich). He starts a relationship with Wendel’s ex-girlfriend Sanja (Jasmine Nibali) who he plans to move away with, but after Wendel ends up in debt with a drug connection, Levi must decide where his loyalties lie.

Firstly, I would like to thank Shannon Alexander who contacted me personally asking to review his film. I am a big supporter of independent filmmakers, having had the experience of being one myself, and by doing this I can hopefully spread the word about fresh talent in the filmmaking business.

I would describe The Misguided as being heavily inspired by the slice of life aspect in realist films. the narrative feels very naturalistic as well as the performances from the actors, and while the film exceeds in the more realist pieces of the story, there are several tiny problems on the technical side that break the realist vibe.

Of all the roles Shannon Alexander has taken in making The Misguided, for me his ability as a filmmaker shines brighter when it comes to the cinematography. Almost all The Misguided is shot in handheld which makes the feeling of contemporary story even more real and heightens the tension for the more gripping scenes, this style of cinematography does wonders for the film. The realism is enhanced even further by the great use of natural low-light. In scenes where low lighting is present the scenes, the colours are well balanced, giving the film a richer appearance.

This is a surprisingly decent performed film as we are treated to a cast of undiscovered and blossoming talent who can show the emotional and personal struggle of their characters clearly. Steve M. Johaljevich too me felt the more charismatic performer and more comfortable in his role of Wendel. It is clear through his performance that this is a character who has become distant from, but still feels a loving family connection with Levi. However, it is the relationship between Levi and Sanja where I felt more impressed by. It may not feel like a stand out performance, but the glowing chemistry of Caleb Galati and Jasmine Nibali can be felt in their scenes together. This great chemistry makes their romance more intriguing elevating this relationship to the part of the film you want to focus on the most.

The film specifically mentions the city of Perth. Now this could just as well be a piece of dialogue to simply explain where the film is set, however I felt that because the characters mention it a few times it provides a kind of home comfort, especially for Australian audiences. This maybe a shot in the dark observation but watching The Misguided with its home country familiarity, the unemployed factor of Levi and the nature of character relationships/connections made this realist film start to crawl into the realms of social realism.

Despite the impressive points of the film, I could feel the heavy workload that Shannon Alexander had taken to make this film because it leaks into the film itself. For instance, the cutting between and showing of different camera angles needed some quality control. There are scenes where the film cuts too late, sometimes the film will cut when the camera is already in mid-motion resulting in this awkward transitioning to the next angle, in all honesty, there are a lot of shots that could have been cut so that we can get back to focusing on the characters. In addition to this, there are sudden moments where the film will pause in a VHS style and moments where the film fast forwards and/or rewinds the footage. This stylistic choice doesn’t seem to fit any sort of cinematic purpose or character making this choice jarring from the realistic tone of the film.

The dialogue is in keeping with the slice of life feel, but it’s the way that the dialogue sounds that makes it feel dragging and unnatural. Technically, it would be very surprising to me if the dialogue was spoken on set because most of the film feels as though the lines were recorded through ADR or dubbing in a recording studio. While this can be manipulated to make the film feel as professional as possible, the unaltered white sound of the environment isn’t utilised effectively to heighten the realism. The way the dialogue is spoken has a whiff of soap opera about it, but that can be somewhat forgivable if your used to hearing this style of language in other films.

Katherine Langford of 13 Reasons Why and recently reviewed Love, Simon also makes an appearance as Vesna, Sanja’s sister. Unfortunately for her growing fandom, she isn’t given enough screen time despite being one of the main selling points of the film and one must question her characters overall role and usefulness in the film. Her character is given a lot of screen time in the opening minutes of the film which gives the impression she will become a big part of the story, but then she is forgotten about until later when she essentially becomes an additional character.

For a first-time feature length debut, this is a decent start for both its cast and crew. Just from watching The Misguided you can clearly get the sense that this is a passion project. The performances from an all-undiscovered cast and the realist tone help propel this film forwards, one of the elements that does let it down is the technical process of the film being put together from the awkward editing to the stylistic choices, more work needed to be done polishing the material beforehand. Despite this, one thing that Shannon Alexander et al. can take away from this is to hold their heads up high and be proud for opening up a new pathway to potentially bigger things, I look forward to seeing how Shannon Alexander’s filmmaking craftsmanship will evolve for the better.

Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average

The Misguided will be available on Amazon, Google, Vimeo and iTunes soon.

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