Quick Reviews: 'Missing', 'Close' | Twisty Kidnapping Tech Thriller, Lukas Dhont's Devastation
Maybe screen time isn't all that terrible for kids after all or maybe this film just happens to be a perfect weapon for them to use when debating with their parents. Who truly knows? Directing and writing duo Will Merrick and Nick Johnson step out of the editing hideout to bright lights with their techno-thriller Missing, a spiritual successor to 2018's great 'Searching' and 2020's 'Run', both which they edited. Again taking place only on screens and cameras, 18-year-old June (Storm Reid) has to become the world's greatest keyboard warrior after her mother Grace (Nia Long) and her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung) don't show up at the airport where June is supposed to pick them up after their vacation in Colombia. Using the power of the internet and different contacts, June tries to find out what happened to her mother and how to get her home safely.
The easiest pitch for Missing would be that if you found 'Searching' to be thrilling and a breath of fresh air, pretty much everything that worked then works here too. Editing, which is once again meticulous, is the driving force behind the story as the reins have been handed over to Austin Keeling and Arielle Zakowski, Merrick and Johnson's screenplay delivers twists at a steady pace while constantly using elements they set up earlier and as a viewer it's just fun to figure out this puzzle along with June who is smart and resourceful.
Reid doesn't really put a foot wrong in her outing even when she's burdened with bells and whistles which is mostly being told to look in different spots all the time while having to deal with props like there is no tomorrow. She also manages to create nice, believable banter with supporting players like Long and Joaquim de Almeida who plays Javi, a helpful and funny Colombian-on-the-ground.
As was the case with the main predecessor, the film's last 10 minutes do drop the ball as it goes off the rails unnecessarily. Thankfully there's enough thrills, reveals and catharsis before to counterbalance that; it's okay to miss sometimes when you shoot for the moon.
Smileys: Editing, screenplay, atmosphere, Storm Reid
Boys will be boys once other boys begin to place them in imaginary boxes, as evidenced by director Lukas Dhont's tender, tear-jerking coming-of-age drama Close (same title used in Belgium), also co-written by Dhont alongside Angelo Tijssens. They transport us as viewers to a small French-speaking Belgian town where we meet a tween boy Léo (Eden Dambrine) who is used to sleeping at his best friend Rémi's (Gustav de Waele) house and particularly right next to him. The summer comes to an end and they begin their secondary level education at a new school where their naive intimacy and deep bond come under scrutiny by schoolmates, some of which is also homophobic. This and Léo's new hobby and friend group eventually lead to his and Rémi's separation as friends which has severe effects on both of them.
What's perhaps most important to know about Close is that its ambition to live up to that tear-jerker title is relentless and a viewer pretty much has to let their guard down fairly fast. Dhont will then meet you halfway more as a director as he really has a terrific eye for catching intimacy and distance with his staging. You want things to feel real in this genre and the two boys' relationship feels very real, also much thanks to both Dambrine and de Waele's acting where they are constantly searching or yearning for something as is appropriate in their age.
Dhont and Tijssens' writing isn't quite as refined, at first treating the boys as way too young before crossing the line to celebration of misery too often which is central for much of the second half. Here and there the direction comes to rescue as Léo shares beautiful moments with his brother Charlie (Igor van Dessel) where both actors speak more with their eyes than with words in the screenplay. Frank van den Eeden's photography embraces colour in all the film's best moments—sometimes colour-coding strongly as well—so even if you don't always connect with the unforgiving melancholy, you can still enjoy artistry that captures it.
Smileys: Directing, acting
Frowneys: Some issues with screenplay