Dennis Fang’s The Missed Call concerns itself with the story of a school coming to terms with the sudden suicide of one of its own. Young Jon (Kieren Xiang) is not having the best of times. His grades are suffering, the girl he invited to the school formal never responded and his sister just passed away. One evening he calls his friend, who can’t be bothered to pick up the phone, and the next day Jon is no longer with us, having taken his life.
Of course, what Jon doesn’t know is that the girl he invited to the formal did accept his invitation, however his “friend” Darius (Davis Fang) never delivered the news to him. Now, as Jon’s friends work through their feelings, Darius has to deal with his own guilt as he wonders if Jon would’ve still killed himself, had he not felt rejected.
The Missed Call is a mixed bag. The young actors aren’t particularly good, but then again they seem to be tasked with expressing ideas and emotions that are just too far out of range at this stage in their lives. The editing rhythm doesn’t help them out either, as often sequences play out too long, are cut too short or involve dissolves and fades that do less to invoke emotions than just draw out the film.
The score in particular is overbearing and aggressive, sometimes like an action-thriller, completely out of sync with the tone portrayed on screen. Not that the music itself is bad, but it doesn’t fit here. The abrasive nature of the sound makes the experience of certain sequences lose their dramatic tension entirely, or adds tension unnecessarily, and then things become almost comical. There’s tugging at heart strings, and then there’s tearing at them with such aplomb that folks close their heart entirely to the experience. The Missed Call tries too hard, and loses you in the process.
It’s not all bad, though. One sequence near the end of the film, in spite of the score, does a great job of mixing different effects via CGI, practical and editing, to illustrate the inner turmoil of Darius as he breaks down with guilt. Beyond that, there are other moments mixed about that show that there is some real skill at work here, though they are fleeting, and perhaps not as well-practiced or seasoned as they could be.
In the end, where the film’s over-the-top moments do work is in capturing that teenage feeling that everything that happens is the end of the world. Not getting a date, poor grades and the like can feel far more oppressive in the teen years than when you look back later on, and in that way the drama here works. It’s in its unrelenting barrage of drama that the short fails, because it eventually becomes a parody of itself until, by the end, you’re no longer in tune with what’s going on so much as wondering how it all went so wrong.
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