This is my review of The Missing [DVD].
On a carefree holiday in France, Tony and Emily suffer every parents’ worst nightmare when their five-year-old son Olly is abducted. With the heavy use of rapid switches back and forth in time, from the abduction in 2006 to the present day of 2014, it is often only possible to gauge the year from the colour and style of the distraught parents’ hair.
It turns out that the gripping, often unexpected plot twists of a detective thriller are in fact secondary to exploration of the psychology of losing a child. The couple pass through phases of clinging together for comfort, of anger and blame, of being brought together by occasional surges of hope, and of the simple inability to be together as before, with the constant memory of the missing Olly driving a wedge between them. Emily strives to move on and create a new life where she can be happy, but still glimpses the all too flesh-and-blood ghost of her son. Tony stubbornly refuses to give up the search, even at the cost of antagonising virtually everyone and losing his job, with only the bottle of wine he cannot afford to dull his senses.
Most of the characters are quite fully developed, with a subtlety which, for instance, can arouse some sympathy for a man struggling with paedophile tendencies. There is also the irony of the French detective Baptiste having suffered the pain of losing a child, but in a different way.
Overall, the acting, character development and settings are excellent. Although the plot twists are reasonably convincing or coherent in the main, I agree with reviewers who have felt that the drama would have been more effective with fewer episodes, achieved through editing out some of the “longueurs” of sub-plots.
There seems to be a current trend, perhaps set by “The Killing” for long, complex, gripping serials which seek to break the model of a “happy-ever-after-ending-against-the-odds-after-terrible-suffering” with an open or only partially explained conclusion. Apart from disappointing most viewers, this also leaves the cynical thought that the stage is set for another lucrative series, although in this case I have read that Series 2 involves a new, separate case. On reflection, I decided that the ending is quite clever in leaving viewers to argue over the final outcome. Also, is it one step beyond being able to cope with a sad ending to find the capacity to accept that, as in real life, you never discover for certain what happens or that matters do not work out as you might have wished?