Missing: Stained by Shadows

Missing tells the story of Santoshi (Jiro Sato), a husband and father who has been struggling emotionally and financially ever since the death of his wife. When he sees an infamous serial killer Yamauchi (Hiroya Shimizu) on the train, he promises to get the reward to help his family. Even so, his daughter Kaeda (Aoi Ito) does not take him seriously? until the next morning when she awakens to an empty home and no clues to his whereabouts.

Directed by Shinzo Katayama, Missing is a dark and powerful film that explores the moral implications of death in the modern era. Sharply written, what begins as a tale of a missing person evolves (or devolves?) into something far more sinister in tone. This is a tale that remains unfazed by the brutality of evil, and willing to depict it graphically onscreen when necessary. (Sensitive viewers may want to take note.) Using cool colors and grey scale, Katayama wants this world to be viewed as bleak and hopeless. However, one colour that pops onscreen is red. Whether its in casual clothing or acts of violence, Katayama ensures that shades of red positively bleed onscreen. (Pun intended.) 

In Missing, red means life?and Yamauchi?s work demands that he takes as much of it as possible.

Amazingly, as Yamauchi?s story becomes clearer, Missing is willing to stare into the face of darkness with a certain level of empathy. Through Katayama?s decision to splinter his film?s timeline, he shows a certain level of understanding for his villain, even as it judges him. With each life that Yamauchi takes, the job becomes easier for him as his heart becomes colder. Yet, at the same time, his motivation stems as much from a certain sense of self-appointed altruism as it does for his own sense of bloodlust. To him, Yamauchi argues that he?s helping those in need. In this way, Missing seems interested in having a conversation surrounding the value of assisted suicide but it never fully engages in the topic. Instead, the film remains a tale of murder, violence, and intrigue as opposed to a social exploration of justice. 

In many ways, Missing wants to look at the lines between us and the various ways that they create division. For example, while Kaeda looks at her father with eyes of respect (even amidst her frustration with him), the viewer begins to see the double life that he keeps behind the scenes. Broken by the loss of his wife, his world is fueled by hurt and loss. As a result, Santoshi is constantly having to choose which side of the line of right and wrong that he?s going to tread. When he encounters Yamauchi, there is a certain level of temptation that he is willing to navigate, especially if it helps alleviate the stress of his life. As such, the real tragedy of Missing becomes what happens when one is willing to step into the shadows of immorality and the stain that it can leave on one?s soul in the process.

Therein lies the irony of Missing. 

Tightly written and executed, Missing is an excellent suspense thriller that challenges as it horrifies. However, because of its excellent craftsmanship, this is not a film that leaves the viewer with a sense of hope for the future. Instead, Missing emphasizes the darkness that so easily entangles us when we’re unwilling to stand against it.

And those sorts of conversations are always unsettling.

Missing?is available in theatres on Friday, November 4th, 2022 and will be available on VOD on November 18th, 2022.

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