It only takes a moment to be #Cancelled and a lifetime to exact revenge. Kôji Fukada’s A Girl Missing is a slow-paced thriller of crime and punishment.
Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui) is a home-care nurse for the matriarch of the Oishi family. Ichiko is an honest and trustworthy worker, and these qualities have endeared her as a close member of the family. So much so, that Ichiko tutors the two granddaughters, Saki (Miyu Ozawa) and Motoko (Mikako Ichikawa).
While the three are together at a diner, Ichiko’s nephew, Tatsuo (Ren Sudo), stops by for a few seconds to give something to his aunt. Soon after, Saki leaves the diner for her cram school classes. That night, Saki never comes home. Long story short, Saki is found days later after being abducted by Tatsuo.
A Girl Missing takes us down two parallel timelines, both following Ichiko as the primary lead of the film. The first timeline is the events that transpire after Saki is found. At Motoko’s insistence, Ichiko lies to Saki’s mother about Tatsuo being her nephew (big mistake), and in a strange twist, Motoko begins to express romantic feelings for Ichiko. When she’s rebuffed, Motoko proceeds to ruin Ichiko’s engagement, job, and personal privacy.
“Soon after, Saki leaves the diner…that night, Saki never comes home.”
In the second timeline, set years later, Ichiko stalks a young man, Kazumichi (Sôsuke Ikematsu), and attempts to befriend him and seduce him for an unknown reason.
The publicity for A Girl Missing describes the story as a slow thriller—emphasis on the word “slow.” It’s also a story that is not what you think. From the title, you’d expect A Girl Missing to be about a missing girl. It’s all about the downward spiral of Ichiko’s life. She becomes a secondary victim of the abduction through no fault of her own. She did not know her nephew was a sociopath, and the initial encounter between Tatsuo and Saki took place in a matter of seconds. Then she finds herself manipulated by Motoko and soon becomes her target for cancellation.
The second timeline is what she becomes as a person in the aftermath of her cancellation. Reputation ruined, now an infamous public figure, and her life drastically different; anger and revenge courses through her blood like a cancer. Unable to find justice for being wrong, maybe this is her way of creating justice. We know how this turns out.
A Girl Missing is a hard sell, and I understand why it may turn off most audiences (no, not because of the subtitles). It’s an acquired taste and typical of the slightly quirky and odd character stories coming from Asia. I’m recommending it only because I find what happens to Ichiko in both her predicament and her character arc, utterly fascinating to watch. The downfall of her life is like watching a car crash in slow motion…very slow motion. What she ultimately becomes is told as a fresh and unique character arc. If you give it a chance, you feel nothing but pity for Ichiko and remorse at the very end.
"…what she becomes as a person in the aftermath of her cancellation."