Matt Shapira’s Disappearance is a moody, atmospheric film beautifully shot on the water, set on a luxury sailboat. The sun, sea, and islands are captured with such meticulous care that even if you take nothing else away from the film you’ll want to go on a sailing vacation, on a charming boat, with attractive people.
The owner of the boat is mysterious, manipulative author George Boulangé (Matthew Marsden). His companions include his manservant / sycophant Blake (Hutch Dano), who worships him like he’s Colonel Kurtz up the river. His wife, Isabelle (Cortney Palm), is a spoiled brat enjoying the luxury lifestyle. George takes great delight in controlling her, which she tolerates, but hates him for. Isabelle has decided, on a whim, to invite gorgeous waitress Cecile (Jemma Dallender) on the trip with them, and off the dysfunctional quartet go on a 3-hour tour, or something like.
“”…Isabelle is a spoiled brat enjoying the luxury lifestyle…”
One night George disappears from the sailboat. In the wake of his vanishing, Detective Kenny Park (Reggie Lee) is assigned the case to determine if there was foul play, or if George just ghosted. According to his wife, George considered all of his life part of and fodder for his fiction and was known to indulge in unusual behavior in the name of a storyline. He believed the best writing came from putting people in a situation and marking their reactions.
Park’s challenge as the story unfolds is that each of the 3 witnesses potentially has reason to lie, and he suspects they may have colluded to tell a matching version of events that may not be the truth.
The pace is meditative. Told in flashback, the filmmaker takes his time to reveal what may have happened, though the narrators are unreliable. The lack of passion and sex in hinted at hedonistic poly groupings is disappointing. We understand the women are attracted to each other, but nothing comes of it. Blake is clearly besotted with George, but no juice there either. A prurient nitpick, to be sure, but when you load that gun in act one, it needs to be paid off at some point. George seems to have no fetish outside his own writing. He’s fascinated in drawing his entourage into narcissistic social experiments
Disappearance lies at the intersection of The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Usual Suspects: a moveable, visual feast to indulge in. Though it could be bolder in execution, still well worth your time.
Disappearance (2019) Directed by Matt Shapira. Written by Hutch Dano, Matt Shapira, Mike Wollaeger. Starring Jemma Dallender, Hutch Dano, Chloe Catherine Kim.
7 out of 10