Playing like a virtual missing persons search, “The Missing” is every parent’s worst nightmare.
We open on a grandpa going bozo in his apartment as he slowly begins to shred the newspaper he was reading, ultimately feeding strips of it to the fish that give him the belly up for his kind offer. Next we find a grandmother hustling into a public restroom to unload a bad case of the Hershey squirts. When she emerges, she finds that her three-year-old grandson is not where she left him, playing on the swings in the temporary care of an elderly stranger. This is where the well-calculated agony begins. Rivaling the horrific rape scene in “Irreversible,” we’re treated with a roughly fifteen minute scene, grueling every step of the way, as this grandmother races about the park in search for her grandson, becoming ever more frantic the longer it takes to find the small boy. Director Lee Kang-Sheng pulls you into her terror by letting his camera step back and observe the bustling park as this panicking woman runs around crying out her grandson’s name. Her helpless cries mix with the once peaceful now turned obnoxious music of live park performers and the assistance that onlookers attempt to provide is repetitively useless. Her child is gone and there’s not a single person that can help. Yep, this isn’t an easy sit.
Soon after the grandson of the old man we met earlier comes home from playing hooky from school to find his grandfather gone and strips of newspaper covering the apartment in his place.
We then return to the grandmother’s plight as we find her roaming about the city, quickly going mad from her endless search. The rest of the film flips back and forth between these two characters until they finally meet.
“The Missing” is an interesting, yet heart crushing journey. Not something you’d want to repeat anytime soon. Kang-Shen captures the urgency and utter helplessness of the missing persons situation by providing long, wide shots of his subjects and the city in which they dwell, holding those shots for uncomfortably long amounts of time, making one feel the truly incredible size of this shitty world that we live in and how easily it can swallow people whole. Those with children probably won’t want to see this one as it would be too much to handle.