“A Girl Missing”

In the second installment of our coverage of this year’s Chicago International Film Festival, one of our writers reviews the Japanese film, “A Girl Missing.”

By Shuwen Fang

The Chicago International Film Festival presented internationally-acclaimed films from October 16 to 27. A Girl Missing premiered at the festival Tuesday, October 22.

A Girl Missing is a Japanese film set in a calm suburban neighborhood. Protagonist Ichiko is a nurse who is diligent, kind, widely known as the neighborhood’s capable nurse, and appropriately engaged to a wealthy, upright man—all admirable traits of the stereotypical female protagonist. 

This happy image only exists in one of the timelines. We see the story unfold between two points in time: before and after she dyes her hair. Through this nonlinear narrative, we see the protagonist move from one social image to the next, both of which are polar contrasts of each other. Through the words of Motoko, one of the granddaughters of her patient, the protagonist’s lies, and the rich details in every gesture and word, we piece together the inner complexities of the characters and the tenuous, changing relations between them. And ultimately, we witness the protagonist’s destruction.

What is the cause of this destruction? The film proposes many suggestions. From the morally dubious acts of other characters to society’s cruel judgment, a tear in the fabric of a calm community provides a glimpse into the grotesque world beneath, echoing the protagonist’s hallucinations.

For more coverage of the Film Festival, check out reviews by writers Wladimir Sarmiento and Veronica Chang.