Missing Child is one of those films which successfully manages to combine innovation and entertainment. Initially, you’d think this a film of a young woman who goes looking for her real parents. She has never known them, having been kidnapped at a young age. What you got is a story which is far more complex than it initially appears, characters who are far more disturbing than they initially let on and themes that will provoke strong discussions long after the movie is watched. Director, producer, co-writer and lead actor, Luke Sabis, makes a fine debut into the realm of feature films with Missing Child.
A young woman, Gia, (Kristen Ruhlin) with a hazy backstory, has grown up in a range of foster homes. She has spent time working as an adult film star, but is now looking ahead with optimism, planning on enrolling in a course to study fashion at university. She is supported by Joe (Luke Sabis), who is a bail bondsman and whose exact relationship with Gia is unclear from start to finish. Initially he is presented as the boyfriend, although the marked age difference also seems to make him a mentor or just a friend.
As Joe is working one day, he comes across an age-enhanced photo of a missing child who bears a strong resemblance to Gia. Determined to help her retrace her past life, he accompanies her to visit Henry (Charles Gorgano), the seemingly kind, elderly father of the missing child. Religious undertones are strong in the house he lives in, with Bibles and passages of scripture littered throughout the home. Henry, however, quickly reveals the shrouded side of his personality, when he drugs them at dinner and holds them hostage. It almost seems impossible to fathom that this man of God could be so twisted in his psyche, for example, he’s quick to shoot down anyone, except himself, for living in sin.
Throughout the film, the director works hard to craft rounded, richly complex characters, each with a wraith of secrets. As the tendrils of their murky pasts trickle out, each character begins to challenge the viewer’s initial perceptions. So it’s hard, as the film moves forward, to determine who exactly we should cheer for. Everyone is corrupted in some capacity and yet they all seem intent on doing the right thing, whatever that means. Most of my compassion was with the troubled Gia, rather than the more manipulative men who she finds herself trapped with. Joe’s dark side comes out in an altercation he has with Gia’s ex, which serves as a timely reminder that even a heroic character’s actions or thoughts are not as predictable as we might anticipate.
There are so many themes worth discussing, and a thorough examination of these alone, could make up an entire review. Religious hypocrisy, human nature, appearance vs reality and accountability for one’s actions, all come up somewhere. Thankfully, the fantastic editing by Emily Chiu enables each theme to get enough on-screen time so the audience can appreciate the ideas unfolding in front of them.
Ruhlin and Sabin are great alongside each other and while their delivery doesn’t shift past melancholy, for the roles they play, it is a good match. Charles Gorgano delivers a breakout performance and it will be interesting to see how this bodes for his future roles. To sum up, Missing Child evokes all the best parts of film making and leaves us glad to have encountered an indie film worth remembering.