Missing (2021)

56% – Audience

Missing Storyline

Following the death of his wife, Santoshi has sunk into depression and debt, much to the consternation of his daughter, high school student Kaede. To ease their debt, Santoshi tells Kaede he will track down a serial killer and collect the reward, but Santoshi disappears and Kaede must find out what happened to him. What appears to be a familiar mystery narrative takes unexpected turns into the depths of human emotion.

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After the loss of his wife, Satoshi has nearly lost everything, including his table tennis club. All he has left is his daughter Kaeda. He’s become absent-minded, becoming lost in a fog and even getting arrested for stealing in a grocery store. So when he tells Kaeda that he just saw a serial killer named Terumi, she thinks he’s in a fantasy all his own. But after he disappears, she realizes that things have become very real.

Director Shinzo Katayama has worked as Bong Joon-ho’s assistant director and this film shows that he’s been studying and working as his craft because this is a very assured film.

Kaeda has been forced to grow up, not just because of the loss of her mother, but because her father is drifting away. All he can do is drink and dream and cry and she has also become almost a mother to him. Terumi, the killer that her father is trying to capture, tells his victims that he’s helping them with their suicide, but he’s actually a heartless killer who commits these acts because he feels that life has lost any sense of beauty.

This is a bleak film and it might be too much for some. Yet if you love movies that explore the bonds between fathers and daughters, as well as man’s inhumanity, it’s worth your time.

Well made, constantly surprising dramatic thriller

A fine Japanese drama/thriller about a teenage girl searching for her father. When she spoke to him last, he claimed he saw a serial killer with a bounty on his head. She suspects he might’ve set out to find the said killer, especially now that he’s drowning in debt.

To say more would be to spoil a complex narrative structured in an atypical way. It’s a multi-character story featuring time shifts and unexpected twists. But what I loved the most was the amount of human depth in a dark, sometimes gruesome context. This is, in heart, a story about people grappling with grief, loneliness and despair. They’re trying to reconnect with other people but can’t help themselves and so end up stuck in the mud, so to speak.

Often juxtaposing emotional outbursts with bizarre horror-like situations, director Shinzo Katayama proves adept at blending genres without hurting the narrative. In that regard he reminds me of the likes of Lee Sang-il (Ikari) or Keisuke Yoshida (Himeanole), daring filmmakers who impress with their abilities to defy simple expectations. The actors here are really convincing too, especially Jiro Sato and Aoi Ito as father and daughter in a strained relationship. Technical specs are fine, often artfully capturing key scenes as they play out.

In short, this was a winner for me. A dramatic thriller that successfully builds a compelling story without compromising its unique vision. The last scene alone is worthy of a watch.