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Missing - Movie Poster
Original Title:

Japan 2021

Thriller, Drama

Shinzo Katayama

Aoi Ito
Jiro Sato
Hiroya Shimizu
Misato Morita
Toko Narushima

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Missing - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Kaeda Harada (Aoi Ito) has to come to a shop after school because her father Satoshi (Jiro Sato) stole something. The matter can be resolved, but it is not the first time that the young girl finds her father in an unpleasant situation like that. Since her mother took her own life, he has not been the same. One day, however, her father is suddenly not at home. With the help of her teacher, Kaeda starts looking for him and also goes to the police, where she is told that, all she could do at the moment was to hang up flyers about her missing father. She even went to her father's workplace, but on the construction site she only finds another man with her father's name. When she hangs up the flyers, though, the image of a wanted murderer who looks exactly like the man on the construction site catches her eye. Kaeda remembers her father telling her that he had seen the murderer known as "No Name" (Hiroya Shimizu) on a train and thought about tracking him down for the reward. Together with a schoolmate who wants to be her boyfriend, the daughter starts looking for the murderer assuming that she would then probably find her father too. It seems that No Name has found his victims on the Internet. They all thought about committing suicide. When Kaeda actually finds the murderer, she is only seeing the tip of the iceberg of why her father disappeared...

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Review: "Missing" deals with various interesting themes and also approaches them in different ways. The individual elements of the movie turn out quite fascinating, but the big question is whether you can handle the movie's dichotomy. In my case, I was having a hard time overlooking the strong cut. While the first half is more like a detective drama in which the little daughter looks for her father and a rather light-hearted tone dominates the events, the second half becomes darker in terms of its themes and the directing style. This clearly makes "Missing" more gripping and there are some interesting questions about euthanasia being asked, but the story also focuses on a serial killer and shines a light on the abyss of the human soul.

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At the beginning, we learn more about the unusual relationship between father and daughter. Kaeda had to grow up too early, because her father has hardly any anchor in life (except for his daughter). Both are still grieving the death of the mother, and we soon find out that she committed suicide. When the father disappears just like that, Kaede's environment thinks that he has just abandoned his daughter as he has always behaved irresponsibly anyway. But Kaede also knows her father's more goofy and loveable side and she is convinced that he would never do something like that to her. So, the only explanation left is that the killer kidnapped him. Together with a friend from school, she starts looking for him, and the whole thing often feels a little like a scavenger hunt - whereas the camera work that always follows the protagonist using long continuous shots also reminds you of an indie drama.

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So, in some respects, the tone is already not entirely consistent here, but the story is developing in a light-footed way. In the second half, however, the drama comes to the fore. We get a flashback to the time when the mother was still alive, and we see a whole new side of the father, played by Jiro Sato ("Violence Action"). The main focus is on the disease that confines the mother to a wheelchair. She slowly turns into a vegetable and wants to die. But her husband can't let go. At some point, though, they start talking about euthanasia. This is where the killer comes in. He introduces himself as someone who wants to help others by relieving them from their pain. The killer, embodied by Hiroya Shimizu ("Tokyo Revengers"), does not reveal much about his psyche, and it would have been nice to learn more about his past, but the villain is still pretty fleshed out compared to those in other thrillers.

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But "Missing" offers some twists that go in all kinds of directions, and so the question arises who is actually the real villain here, or whether there are even several of them. In addition, the victims of the killer are not always nice people either, and above all, there is a woman in the foreground, who really wants nothing more than to die. On a moral level, the movie asks some interesting questions and leads us deeper and deeper into the broken psyche of the killer, but also into that of the father. In a few scenes, the thriller can also get quite bloody. But as mentioned before, it's actually the themes that require the viewer to be a little more hard-shelled. Watching the mother trying to somehow hang herself from the curtains even though she doesn't really have the strength to do so, and then seeing the father hesitating to free her from the curtains is a pretty hard gut punch.

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Since the second half is told entirely as a flashback, we also see a few overlaps with the first half towards the end. These sometimes turn out quite funny too, which is even more confusing when you try to figure out what kind of tone the director was actually aiming for. There's no question that "Missing" gets more and more gripping towards the end and deals with complex topics that set it apart from other thrillers. Unfortunately, it is still problematic, though, that the movie feels divided into two parts - even though both parts are brought together towards the end -, and therefore the tonal change is simply too strong. Most critics didn't seem to have a problem with that, but considering the rating on Rottentomatoes, viewers apparently thought differently. I, myself, also really want to recommend "Missing", but in the end, I need to hold back because this otherwise interesting thriller simply lacks coherence.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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