The East Asia Film Festival Ireland is in full swing and not even a pandemic will slow it down. With a virtual festival being held online with a selection of six films being released this latest festival is quite a unique one. With A Girl Missing, the festival has come out swinging with a film that is hard to forget.
A Girl Missing is about a home-care nurse whose relationship with the family she works for is threatened when her nephew is arrested for kidnapping their daughter.
The film opens with Risa Uchida (Mariko Tsutsui) getting a new haircut. She has recently left her job of home-care nursing, feels like she needs a new lease on life and as she is getting her hair cut she befriends her hairdresser.
The film then cuts back to when Risa was still a home-care nurse. She is the caregiver for the grandmother of a family. She is also called Ichiko. From the moment I learned Risa’s actual name is Ichiko a tension gripped me and was there for this whole film, and I loved it.
Two worlds and one woman
When we meet Risa seems a quite cold individual, somewhat intense so when the film jumps back to Ichiko you are constantly on edge wondering what happened. Ichiko is a wonderful woman when you meet her. She’s a warm and caring woman and has clearly ingratiated herself on the family. The grandmother adores her, the mother has chats with her and daughters Saki and Mokoto also have an excellent rapport with her. It’s a testament to both the writing and acting that this all feels genuine and all the more unnerving when you are wondering how does it fall apart.
There is one scene early in the film where Risa barks like a dog as she tries to gain the attention of a character. Director Kôji Fukada lets it play out so that you’re not sure if she’s going mad or is just looking for attention. It’s fascinating to watch Risa/Ichiko and her state of mind and see them converge as the past catches up with the present.
Fukada also utilises some excellent cinematic tools to show the two different time periods and the passage of time within them. For example you always know what time time period you’re in due to Risa/Ichiko’s hair length. The world is also brighter and more vibrant in the past until the revelation of the kidnapping kicks in. Then the colour begins to slowly drain until we sync up with the present.
Fukada also made the choice to not have a score. This is interesting because usually, a score is there to help an audience figure out how they feel some times in a film. It’s also there to enhance moments. Within A Girl Missing, the lack of it leaves the film open to your own views and opinions.
This is a smart move because you will learn about Ichiko’s past and you will have definite opinions about it and the director wants you to come to those decisions about her on your own.
The best part of A Girl Missing is the women within its cast. Mariko Tsutsui is incredible as the woman who loses everything and doesn’t know what to do. Her descent and how she handles it is compelling and she sells every moment of it. Mikako Ichikawa plays Mokoto, one of the daughters, and the obsessive nature she brings to her role is equally as brilliant as it is unnerving at times.
A Girl Missing is a film not to be missed especially with the East Asia Film Festival Ireland on at the moment. At €32.99 you can watch this and the other five titles available all in one great package. And if the rest of the films are this good I highly recommend it.
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