The Missing


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Missing
"Combining clever ideas with a deep current of emotional honesty, this is an unusual and powerful film."

“I can’t see what you see,” says Carlo (Gio Gahol), the co-worker who is trying to help young animator Eric (Carlo Aquino) deal with the crisis precipitated by his uncle’s death. Amongst the things he seems to be unable to see is that Eric has no mouth. He does know that Eric doesn’t speak, but communicates through gestures, signing or the use of a writing board. This is something which he takes for granted and easily accommodates, but he has no idea how it came about.

Nobody does. Eric’s mother, Rosalinda (Dolly De Leon), who calls him and talks whilst he responds using video, knows that something went wrong with her once happy child when he was young, but no more than that. He has never been able to explain. In trying to explain it to himself, he has come to believe that he was visited by an alien which took away his mouth. The memory of this continues to terrify him, and learning that his uncle has died coincides with the alien returning, once again threatening him, stealthily beginning to take away other parts of his body – all with nobody else able to see, and so nobody able to stop it.

Copy picture

There are two different styles of animation used in this, the Philippines’ submission to the 2024 Oscars. The present day material is rotoscoped, enabling us to witness Eric’s bodily changes and see the world as he sees it whilst giving the actors the opportunity to contribute more than vocal work alone. The scenes from Eric’s flashbacks, dealing with his memories and imaginings, are presented in a scribbled, childish style which gives us another way of sharing his (then different) perspective. This also provides a grounding for the film’s fantastic elements, which, to a child, exist on a continuum with the everyday. Although he is now an adult, the re-emergence of these elements in Eric’s world is terrifying, and Aquino really sells that.

Relatively few people are willing to stick it out and support somebody going through this kind of experience. As Carlo stays close, listening even when he can’t understand, giving all the care that he can, it gradually becomes apparent that there is something deeper than friendship here. It’s a love story which is addressed directly only close to the end, and then in a low key way. We witness it rather than needing to be told, and we witness the power that it gives to Eric when he most needs to fight.

Combining clever ideas with a deep current of emotional honesty, this is an unusual and powerful film. It builds up slowly so that you won’t recognise its full power until the final moments. The underlying subject matter will make it difficult for some people to watch, but if you can stick it out despite that, it’s worth it.

Reviewed on: 21 Dec 2023
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The Missing packshot
When an alien comes back to take him, a mouthless young man's life twists and turns as his memories untangle.

Director: Carl Joseph Papa

Writer: Carl Joseph Papa

Starring: Carlo Aquino, Gio Gahol, Dolly De Leon

Year: 2023

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Philippines, Thailand

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