Writer/director Manuela Alberti's The Missing gives new meaning to the term 'thriller' - mainly because it is not thrilling at all. In fact, it is slow, tedious and difficult to make sense of.
The film tells the story of Tommaso (Bentivoglio), a priest who lives a life of isolation in Rome's Vatican City. His life is interrupted by one time lover Susan's (Frith from Love Serenade) pleas for help as she informs him of his daughter's disappearance. When her desperate cries begin to penetrate his subconscious, he makes the journey to outback Australia to find her. Upon his arrival, he learns of a police investigation into brutal serial killings that have been taking place in the nearby forest. Through his search for his daughter, Tommaso becomes embroiled in the powerful world of Aboriginal spiritual magic as he relies on the help of the local community and their knowledge of the land.Much of the action takes place on the deserted highways of Australia's outback - the endless miles of rock and dust and the occasional semi-trailer burning along at breakneck speed. In fact, many of these trucks run our poor Tommaso over and a great deal of the film resembles a "Roadrunner" cartoon, with Tommaso as Wile E. Coyote. He manages to survive knock after pounding after virtual obliteration.
Frith delivers a balanced performance, with the requisite amount of strength, anxiety and terror one would expect of a mother who has lost her only child. It is unfortunate that she doesn't have more screen time, as we have to contend with the dreary Tommaso for much of the film. Bentivoglio's performance is trite and weighs heavily upon us like the winter coat he wears during the Aussie heatwave the film depicts.Alberti fails to make any meaningful connections between the worlds he brings together. The link between Vatican Priest, Australian mother and outback Aboriginal community is indeed very tenuous. For this reason, The Missing is a very puzzling film. ---Ronit Frost