VOD film review: She’s Missing
Josh Hartnett deployment8
Matthew Turner | On 02, Jul 2019
Director: Alexandra McGuinness
Cast: Lucy Fry, Eiza González, Josh Hartnett, Sheila Vand, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Christian Camargo
Watch She’s Missing online in the UK: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
The second feature from Irish actor-turned-writer-director Alexandra McGuinness (Lotus Eaters), She’s Missing is set in present-day New Mexico and stars Lucy Fry and Eiza González as best friends Heidi and Jane, who both continually make plans to leave their dusty desert town, with casino worker Jane set on becoming a rodeo queen. When she fails to achieve her dream, Jane shocks Heidi by marrying her previously-not-that-serious soldier boyfriend and apparently settling down.
However, when Jane mysteriously disappears, Heidi is compelled to look for her former best friend, even though nobody else seems to care all that much that she’s vanished. Her search opens her eyes to various desert communities, including a cult-like coterie of cactus-juice addicts, lead by a beatific Ren (Josh Hartnett).
Fry delivers a captivating performance as Heidi. Initially quiet and unimposing, she’s presented as very much in Jane’s shadow, perhaps even a little bit in love with her, as teased in the film’s opening scene. However, as the film progresses, Fry makes Heidi’s journey mesmerising to watch, investing her with incremental amounts of strength and resourcefulness from scene to scene. This is particularly notable in the relationship she strikes up with rodeo cowboy Lyle, despite a warning from Jane that he’s married.
Eiza González is intriguingly mercurial as Jane and there’s a continual sense of quiet heartbreak, as we sense that maybe Jane doesn’t care for Heidi quite as much as Heidi cares for Jane. McGuinness flavours the film with colourful supporting performances, from Camargo’s layered turn as Lucy’s lover (the initial shine soon fading) to striking turn from Sheila Vand (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) as one of Jane’s fellow casino employees. However, the film’s best decision is the casting of Josh Hartnett as a laidback desert guru, not least because Hartnett has been absent from movie screens just long enough that if someone told you Hartnett himself had become a desert guru, you’d probably believe it.
McGuinness’ direction is extremely impressive. She captures an convincing sense of place and creates an increasingly mysterious atmosphere, laced with a growing sense of threat. A third-act change of tack initially feels like a wrong turn for the film, but it’s entirely in keeping with the film’s ideas about finding and losing yourself.
The atmosphere is further heightened by Gareth Munden’s dusty, washed-out cinematography – lending shades of Paris, Texas – as well as an ominous, unsettling score from David Harrington. A quietly powerful film about seeking to fill empty spaces.