Full disclosure: I am a major fan of Lucy Hale. In my opinion, she can do no wrong. Blumhouse’s Truth or Dare certainly has its haters, but I adored Hale in that movie, and watched it opening weekend with a crowd having a blast. I was crushed beyond belief when my 2020 pandemic comfort-food show, Katy Keane, was cancelled—that was probably my favorite Lucy Hale role yet, and felt practically built for her from the ground up. No matter where I find her popping up next, I would gladly follow Hale to the ends of the earth. This journey is what specifically led me to her new film, Borrego.
Lucy plays a young botanist, Elly, who relocates to a small town for an important plant survey. She comes across a young girl in the desert who offers to help, and the two share a brief connection. Later that night, she comes upon a plane just as it is crashing. When Elly runs to help the fallen pilot, Tomas (Leynar Gomez), he quickly turns on her, and takes Elly hostage. Elly’s life is spared only because she insists that “I know this desert… I can take you wherever you need to go!” Together, the two head for the Salton Sea, as the drug mule must reach his final destination.
A somber fireside chat between Elly and Tomas really helps to get to the core of their two characters, but there are simply not enough moments like this. Lucy Hale is great playing a young woman under immense levels of stress (see: every season of Pretty Little Liars), so why not give her more material to work with? Her character does not feel fully fleshed out enough to warrant the time we are forced to spend. Even still, the vibe between these two mostly works, even if I wanted more from it. One gets a sense that it is virtually impossible for either to survive without the other, crafting a symbiotic thread that flows through them.
However, what really does not work at all is the side story with Sheriff Jose (The Good Doctor’s Nicholas Gonzalez) and his daughter, Alex (Olivia Trujillo). Each time we cut from the main action between Elly and Tomas, the movie drags in a major way. It is a bummer, but truly neither Jose nor Alex are all that interesting. If the focus was going to be on the road trip, this is surely where we should have stayed throughout.
I wanted to love Borrego. Let me make this clear: Borrego is not awful by any means, but it is simply not that great. In nearly every way, the nails could have been tightened to make for an experience far richer in personality and power. The emotional core is missing, seemingly stricken from the record. The experience itself is rather empty, minus an excellent Lucy Hale turn. I fully respect everything they were trying to accomplish with this film. Spreading awareness about the horrifying realities of addiction, overdoses, and the illegal dug trade is extremely important.
Borrego crosses the border when Saban Films debuts the feature in select U.S. theaters and Video On Demand, beginning Friday, January 14th.