Writer/director Alexandra McGuinness’ She’s Missing is such an odd, intermittently compelling amalgamation of motifs and genres, it really should amount to more than it does. Her film contains strong similarities to the recent Them That Follow, its desert landscape substituting Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage’s Appalachian setting. The two films share a central theme: that of being sheltered in a remote society, a fermented microcosm if you will, from which sole salvation lies in the form of a sect. Both feature strong female protagonists, attempting to escape that world – although the ones in McGuiness’ film resort to liquid hallucinogens as opposed to slithering snake gods. Yeah, things get pretty crazy.
Too bad it constantly feels like the clearly-talented filmmaker is holding back the reigns (unlike her equestrian heroine), slowing the pace and muting the palette when the narrative calls for an unabashed commitment to depravity. It’s as if she wanted to make a Lynchian psychedelic drama and a slow-burning backcountry thriller but failed to find a coherent middle ground. Regardless, She’s Missing warrants your attention for its unpredictability, its contemplative mood, and strong performances.
“…being sheltered in a remote society, a fermented microcosm if you will, from which sole salvation lies in the form of a sect.”
Heidi (Lucy Fry) and Jane (Eiza Gonzalez) are best friends and polar opposites. Heidi works at the local diner; she’s humble and giggles nervously when she talks. Jane works at the casino, in addition to preparing for a rodeo; she deems herself a queen, aiming to “set the world on fire.” Though Jane gets married (reluctantly), she persists that there are bigger things out there for her. Speaking of her wedding, the mysterious Ren (Josh Hartnett) shows up with an even more mysterious envelope.
“Don’t you get tired of feeling totally powerless sometimes?” Jane demands shrilly, after setting a bunch of newspaper on fire in a panicked state. When Heidi attempts to confront her, Jane snaps, “I don’t need you anymore.” Even after winning the crown at the rodeo, she doesn’t care. “I’m done,” she says, “I want a real crown.” The day after, Jane goes – you guessed it – missing.
"…I’ll take a bold, if misshapen, curiosity such as this over safe Hollywood fare any day."