Reviewed by Steve Leonard
“Miranda Veil” depicts the morbid road trip of a would-be murderer and a young woman with a mysterious supernatural ability. Through a series of surreal vignettes, the two uneasy companions encounter cryptic strangers and wrestle with their own personal demons as they make their way through the California desert. The film uses this road trip to explore the nature of death and the act of killing, making it thematically a sort of southwestern “Seventh Seal.” Viewers uncomfortable with graphic violence may want to sit this one out, but for everybody else, the film is worth a watch.
It’s a beautifully shot film that makes excellent use of its desert setting. The characters pass through ordinary suburban landmarks like motels and gas stations between long stretches of lonely desert road, echoing the uneasy dissonance between the simultaneous otherworldliness and mundanity of their experiences. The line between the everyday and the supernatural becomes thinner and thinner until it vanishes in the desert heat. The southern Californian viewer in particular will find the arid landscape and featureless suburbs familiar, rendering that dissonance even more unsettling.
“Miranda Veil” is ambitious; it is at once a road movie, thriller, mystery, romance, dark comedy, and, ultimately, meditation on death. Often these elements clash against each other; the brutality of the thriller segments toward the beginning makes the romance and comedy feel sudden and out of place. And the literalness of the young woman’s powers doesn’t always mesh well with the subtler, more ambiguous tone of the mystical experiences she encounters on the road trip. The juggling required to maintain each of these elements ends up distracting from the exploration of death, which is ostensibly the movie’s raison d’etre. Because so much time is spent developing humor, romance, and thrills at the same time, the ideas about death that the film presents are not quite as satisfying or developed as they could have been had it focused on just a few things. By the end of the movie, the film’s perspective on death is vague; some viewers will be frustrated, while others may appreciate the ambiguity.
But “Miranda Veil” is memorable and, at times, haunting. An encounter with a man in a bunny costume at a gas station mini mart particularly stands out in my memory. In this vignette, the young woman approaches the bunny suit man, who tells her the macabre story behind the costume in a sequence that has a darkly comic strangeness that would feel at home in a Coen brothers movie. This scene is perhaps the tightest in the film, and encapsulates “Miranda Veil’s” best aspects: imaginative storytelling, suburban ennui, and a sense of cosmic mystery.