“The Girl Who Wasn’t Missing” directed, shot, edited and co-written by Shane Ryan also known as Bonéshin tells the story of a young woman played by Kai Lanette. The girl is never given a name but you are introduced to her after she is violently raped and impregnated by a gang of evil teens. It is brutal, disturbing and it grips you in a very emotional way. It reminded me of some of the more gut wrenching rape scenes I have seen in cinema such as “Irreversible” and “The girl with the dragon tattoo” and it’s a strong start to the film. After this the poor woman’s life gets worse and worse as she has little to nothing to hold onto as her dire situation becomes grimmer.
This is a movie from Wild Eye Releasing that I should have thought was good, these are the kind of movies I generally feel favorably about as a filmmaking experiment. “The Girl Who Wasn’t Missing” explores abject poverty, homelessness and other ugly aspects of our society and puts a face on a type of woman that you might be prone to ignore on a day-to-day basis. But as well intentioned as this film is it still falls short as a cinematic experience.
Ryan does a good job with the cinematography weaving us in and out of her shiftless day, but his editing is his own worst enemy as he puts in gimmick filled scenes to grab our attention such as at one point for no reason applying a chrome filter to a scene of the girl walking. It doesn’t advance the story, it doesn’t add atmosphere it just feels sloppy and amateurish like a filmmaker playing around with all the new bells and whistles of new editing software. Ryan is better than that and this film deserved better than that.
Kai Lanette has a Herculean task of being engaging with little to no dialogue and mostly just walking and looking pensively at aesthetically pleasing or intentionally displeasing structures and environments. This movie could have easily been a “Winter’s Bone” for her but the difference between these two films is one is anchored with a purpose for each and every scene while this one tries to delve into the drudging along of everyday life in a miserable situation. I’m not saying the concept couldn’t work, but it needed focus.
This film also fails to have a true 3rd act. The script which was written by Kai Lanette and Shane Ryan falls apart after the 1st act with seemingly random encounters and no real conclusion or added obstacles and or objectives. There is nothing to hold me to this film and despite it’s relatively short run time of 70 minutes I felt like I had sat through hours of film by the end of it. One of the producers (Sean Cain & Jeremy Williams) needed to pull Ryan aside and tell the director that there wasn’t a story here, or rather not a complete one. It’s set up and then a seemingly endless parade of bad scenarios and hopelessness. I know that this is a harsh reality for many people throughout the world but it cheapens the message via the film medium to ignore basic structural positions. Far too many indie films try and reinvent the wheel when they just need to learn how to drive first.
There are some inspired moments of cinematography and Ryan could probably get a lot of work as a cinematographer for music videos and Lanette clearly has what it takes to be strong actress but this project failed to captivate me past fifteen minutes in and would have been most effective as either a short or with a massive rewriting of the 3rd act.