Missing (Sagasu) - New Release Review
Director: Shinzô Katayama
Starring: Jirô Satô, Aoi Itô, Hiroya Shimizu, Tôko Narushima
Written by: Shinzô Katayama, Kazuhisa Kotera, Ryô Takada
Produced by: Yoko Ide, Akira Yamano, Koji Harada
Cinematography by: Naoya Ikeda
Original Score by: Hiyoko Takai
Following the death of his wife, Satoshi has fallen into a deep depressive state and is also in debt. But he thinks he has found a way out when he tells his daughter that he will hunt down an infamous serial killer known as 'No Name'.
I wasn't quite prepared for the impact that this film would have on me. Having only been exposed to the vague plot not too long before my viewing, I can honestly say that 'Missing' is a film that punched me right in the gut on various occasions, leaving me a sobbing mess more than once during its runtime.
I want to preface that if you're currently in a loving relationship with someone then 'Missing' will be very difficult to watch at times. There are a few scenes that genuinely made me feel sick with a grief that I haven't even experienced yet and there was even a point when I considered bailing out, but I'm glad I didn't. Film is art after all and a reflection of real life and sometimes the most emotionally suffocating experiences make you stronger. I managed to get through those particularly difficult scenes, albeit with blubbering tears and snot, and what followed kinda blew me away.
We're first introduced to Satoshi Harada (Jîro Satô) when his daughter Kaede (Aoi Itô) has to bail him out of a precarious shoplifting incident. Poor Kaede has ran through the streets of Osaka at night-time to get to her father on time before it escalates and she manages to get him off the hook. We then get a little backstory here about Harada and Kaede's situation. It's just the two of them now because Kimiko, Satoshi's wife and Kaede's mother has sadly passed away. They're not living their best life and Satoshi is struggling with depression and understandably he is also struggling to hide it. With very little money to their name and zero ambitions whatsoever, life itself has become almost unbearable. Yet the father daughter relationship is still strong enough, sharing funny, intimate moments when they can. Satoshi admits to his daughter that he thinks he knows who the infamous 'No Name' serial killer is who has been featured in all the recent news reports so he plans on capturing him and claiming a large reward from the authorities. Kaede essentially laughs this off but one morning Satoshi has vanished leaving behind zero clues. Fearing the worst, Kaede makes it her mission to find her father at all costs. But this is so much more than just a generic missing person thriller. Filled with twists and turns and breathtaking performances, 'Missing' is an emotional rollercoaster and an absolute heartbreaking piece of filmmaking.
From the very first frame of 'Missing' I knew I was in for a treat. Satoshi practicing swinging a hammer in slow motion. Without context this is a simple yet intriguing way to open a picture and obviously bares a lot more importance later on in the film. It starts off a little in the same vein as Bong Joon-ho's Oscar winning 'Parasite' in how it highlights the divisive class system, although in a much more subtle way. After Satoshi's disappearance it becomes apparent that nobody really wants to help Kaede find him, even the authorities, who have wrote his vanishing off as nothing more than an easy way out of his crippling debts. Katayama worked as AD on Joon-ho's 'Mother' and the influeneces are noticeable. Kaede becomes super desperate and eventually manages to string a couple of fine threaded clues together which reveal that the 'No Name' serial killer is in fact living in Osaka and that he may have had something to do with her father going missing.
I won't spoil anything to do with the plot any further but through some time jumps we are exposed to something a lot more sinister going on. If this was a Hollywood movie (I'm sure a US remake won't be far away) then I could definitely see David Fincher or M. Night Shyamalan taking the helm.
The three leads in this film are all incredible. Aoi Itô is particularly outstanding as the young, female heroine who seems to fear nothing else but the so-called inevitability of finding her father's corpse somewhere. There's a terrific sequence relatively early on where she is chasing the killer (Hiroya Shimizu) but becomes boxed in and in her only suitable way of defending herself she raises her closed fists up to fight the man off. It doesn't sound like much on paper but it perfectly sums up her courage and determination. Her character is like a tiny Jack Russell who just won't stop trying to nibble at your heels. Her tenacity is one of her overpowering qualities. That and her enduring love for her father.
There are some very shocking scenes in the film and as mentioned previously some scenes that are just heart-wrenchingly painful to watch. It is a very bleak film but it does dare to ask some important questions about humanity and it's also gorgeous to look at. I'm a little bit obsessed with the Japanese streets lit up at night. I know for a fact that there is one scene that will stay with me for a very long time and it involves Jirô Satô making an unimaginable decision, all for the unwavering love he has for his wife. Crazy to think that this is Shinzô Katayama's commercial feature film directorial debut. What a stunning way to introduce yourself to the film world.
- Gavin Logan
'Missing' will be on VOD on all major platforms in the US and Canada on November 18th and on Blu-ray on December 6th and in the UK early 2023.