A Girl Missing


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Kôji Fukada on Ichiko (Mariko Tsutsui) as a voyeur: “Rear Window, it is one of my favourite Hitchcock films and I think the action of looking out a window is in itself very cinematic.”
"Fukada, who trusts in our ability to figure things out eventually...sprinkles clues and riddles throughout his account of the human condition in the 21st century."

Packaged as a thriller, Kôji Fukada’s A Girl Missing (Yokogao), shot by Ken'ichi Negishi (Akihiro Toda’s Neko Ni Mikan), is much more interested in how vulnerable we all actually are, should the fates or the cruelty of media attention decide to conspire against us. The harmless can turn monstrous in the blink of an eye.

A woman in a red coat enters a hair salon. She is ready for a change and happens to mention her late husband, whom she calls the 'worst husband'. So begins one of Fukada's intriguing timelines for us to follow. In the other, the same heroine, Ichiko, played by a fantastically versatile Mariko Tsutsui, is seen doing her job as a nurse for the Oishi family. Grandma, a famous artist, is now breathing heavily, still smoking. Riddled with dementia, she completes jigsaw puzzles of her own artworks.

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Ichiko is also helping out the two daughters of the family with their school work. Older sister Motoko (Mikako Ichikawa) feels especially close to her. When the younger sister Saki (Miyu Ogawa) disappears, the missing girl of the title, everything in Ichiko's life is slowly turned upside down. What seem to be the smallest decisions of how to react, become irreversible boulders in her path.

Fukada, who trusts in our ability to figure things out eventually, even if we feel a bit like grandma and her puzzles, sprinkles clues and riddles throughout his account of the human condition in the 21st century. A knob can look like a fourth head around the table, the sound of heels on the pavement conducts our anticipation, and a Gregor Samsa dream lets Ichiko wake up as a dog.

The protagonist’s journey as it unfolds in the two strands builds up tension through unexpected twists and turns. It soon becomes clear, how little we actually know these characters and, even more pointedly, how little they really know each other despite years of supposed closeness. One lie leads into another. Is it true that sunflowers for Van Gogh meant life and for Mondrian death? How much can be forgiven? What overlooked? Whom can you tell your deepest darkest secrets to, casually in a zoo? Jealousy creates monsters. Things fall into place, nothing is forgotten.

When reporters stand in front of your door, terrorising you to give them gossip on yourself and everyone has already turned against you - what happens then? At times situations here feel overly constructed and revenge motivations are hinted at with big arrows. At others, mostly when we are left to our own devices to figure something out, A Girl Missing trembles with urgency.

Reviewed on: 11 Jan 2020
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Ichiko works as a private nurse for a family she has almost become a part of. But when the youngest member of the family disappears, the kidnapper's identity causes trouble.

Director: Kôji Fukada

Writer: Kôji Fukada

Starring: Mariko Tsutsui, Mikako Ichikawa, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Kentez Asaka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Ren Sudo

Year: 2019

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: Japan


New York 2019

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