‘Unconformity’ follows the story of Alex, a geology student who decides to go to the Mojave Desert all by herself after a devastating betrayal from her boyfriend and school colleague. On this journey, she finds more about life than she sets out to discover about geology.
The film starts with a montage of Alex (played by Alex Oliver) scaling a climbing wall and this is fused with images of rock formations under a microscope. You can immediately identify that Alex is a strong-willed woman with the determination to succeed in her career. But that is momentarily threatened when her boyfriend steals her discovery and presents it as his. She is adamant but the faculty doesn’t believe that it is her discovery.
She decides to embark on field research into the desert to pursue a career-defining discovery.
Whilst doing her best to survive under the harsh conditions of the desert she encounters another desert dweller, Nick (played by Jack Mulhern) a young cowboy who lives with his father, Everett, on a struggling cattle ranch.
The two quickly get acquainted and bond over the challenges of ranching, climbing and desert life.
Even whilst away, she has to deal with the complexities of her life back home. Petro, her thesis advisor tries to control her life and wants to take credit for her search findings.
Nick on the other hand is struggling to come to terms with what looks like the obvious future of their family ranch. His involvement with Alex serves as a distraction from all that is going wrong for him but could also end up compounding the situation for him.
Alex shows a lot of resolve and persistence in going on fieldwork alone which is admirable. But you would notice it all a journey of self-discovery.
The story is more about Alex finding herself than finding answers for her research paper. She knows what she wants and what to do to get it, but does she have what it takes and is it all worth it? Alex finds all these answers in a desert whilst finding answers for her research.
And so does Nick, he is forced to grow up and face the realities of his life whilst learning that there is more to life than constant failure.
One thing that works for this film is the cinematography. The vastness and harshness of the Mojave Desert are captured with such simplicity visually but artistically compliments that film’s exploration of themes like self-discovery, change ambition and adaption. The sights are there and the cinematographer fortunately doesn’t attempt anything complicated to capture its beauty.
It is brilliant how a film as simple as this has many levels of depth that can be unpacked any way the viewer decides to look at it from. One thing is for sure, this isn’t some sob story romantic drama. Not that it would be wrong if it was, but it turns out to be more than that.
As a feature film debut for writer and director Jonathan DiMaio, he shows a knack for hiding detail in plain sight. He uses geology and rock climbing as the backdrop for painting this portrait about the complexities of life and the struggle for success. But comes with its shortfalls, many might find this film as a slowed paced uneventful drama that leaves very little to be desired for a second or third watch.
Alex Oliver and Jack Mulhern also deserve some credit for making this film as good as it is with their performances. They offer more than you would expect serving on-screen chemistry that is far from your typical romantic encounter but equally as thought-provoking as the film’s undying themes. You don’t see the pair falling in love, you rather see them both learning to thrive in an otherwise harsh world filled with uncertainties.
I would score this film 7/10.
In conclusion, “Unconformity” is a unique and compelling film that offers a thought-provoking look at life, the struggle for survival and the journey towards ambition from two varying but somewhat similar perspectives.