Koji Fukada’s newest film, A GIRL MISSING, follows Ichiko Shirakawa (Mariko Tsutsui) as the impact of her nephew’s crime begins to unravel her life. Over the course of almost two hours, we see the spiral of chaos that takes over Shirakawa’s life and the mystery of her future self’s motivation. With clear influences from French New Wave with its limited dialogue, jump cuts, use of subtlety, and non-stationary handheld-esque camera use, A GIRL MISSING is a film with depth and intriguing elements worth discussing.
A GIRL MISSING does not rely on much in-depth dialogue to carry the plot: instead, it relies on flashbacks and suggestions to draw the viewer into the film’s web. The dialogue choice also affects characterisation, plot development, and relationships, all of which are generated more through gestures. This interesting choice allows for the actors to shine, however, there are moments where the plot is not clear. Towards the end of the film is the greatest example of this: Tsutsui’s dedication to her character is evident but, although we believe her as Shirakawa, the plot itself becomes unbelievable and rushed. The shock sexual relationship with her past mentee’s (Motoko) boyfriend (Kazamuchi) is positioned as revenge but the character the audience has known throughout the film does not match the ultimate end motivation presented. Shirakawa was not vengeful, but caring, as the epitome of the image of a mother (despite not being a mother in the traditional sense). This plot point does not deter from the overall impact of the film but highlights issues with limited and simplistic dialogue to portray characterisation.
What film lacks in dialogue is balanced by the incredible acting of Mariko Tsutsui. She creates depth in scenes that would have been empty as a result of her ability to portray underlying messages in her words and detail the inner workings of her character through subtle actions or expressions. Her manipulation of the camera gives an intimacy with her character and the audience. She embodied Shirakawa and was dedicated to presenting a well-rounded character even when the plot lacked. A clear example of this is after her day out with Motoko where they are running to cross the road before the light turns red. Shirakawa falls behind Motoko and does not make the crossing. The scene is simplistic and there is no dialogue, however the blank and defeated expression of Shirakawa reveals that this moment is reflective of her life. She is trying to catch up with the chaos around her but she falls flat. She can’t beat it. A true artist and it is exceptionally clear why Koji Fukada chose to her have for the role.
A GIRL MISSING is a deeply interesting film with multiple elements that make its impact worth noting. This film would be easy to dismiss, however, on closer inspection, there are very strong directorial choices that produce exquisite scenes and acting abilities that should not go unnoticed or unpraised. Fukada took risks with this film, and whilst some may not have paid off the overall production is worthy of serious critique and discussion.