I’m born and raised in Texas. Rodeos, beauty pageants, and all the cowboy trappings that surround those things filled my hometown – well, city. So, when I see films that nail that atmosphere and the kinds of people you’d see there without exaggeration or absurdity, I’m always a little bit in awe. Written and directed by Alexandra McGuinnes, She’s Missing takes place in a small desert town that might as well be in West Texas. It focuses on Heidi (Lucy Fry) and Jane (Eiza González), two best friends whose lives are torn apart when one of them vanishes after her wedding.
The film opens with Jane and Heidi just living. Their chemistry and friendship is palpable, if not entirely platonic seeming. Having grown up together, they couldn’t imagine life without each other, even though they’re opposites. Jane is a beauty queen, looking for marriage, looking for more. Heidi is a waitress at a diner, putting her life into the town and into Jane. You can tell that the two have sealed their bond through being more like sisters than friends, loving each other when the world and their own families didn’t.
But, after taking the time to build out their relationship, Jane goes missing. A beauty queen, a newlywed, and a friend, there isn’t a trace of her anywhere, and sadly, Jane isn’t the first woman to go missing in the town. Seeking guidance from a woman in her diner whose child went missing, Heidi does everything she can to find her best friend. Determined to find Jane, Heidi enters a world of violence and lies as she crosses paths with a series of men and women who are not only unusual and dishonest, but pull her both away and towards Jane in different ways.
She’s Missing is a slow-burning film, one that feels more human than grand. As such, the characters have distinguishable personalities and identities that make them feel real in this small town. One of which is Jane. From her making the grito, a Mexican interjection and celebratory sound, into a canyon, to the small mentions of a Mexican American border patrol agent (which there are many in areas like West Texas), there is a reality to She’s Missing.
That being said, in the third act, where the twist and Jane’s fate is revealed, it is both interesting and disconnected from the narrative of the rest of the film. Josh Hartnett‘s character Ren, who is important to the ending, doesn’t fit within the larger film, making the realizations when he’s introduced more empty than emotional. Despite this, She’s Missing manages to pull off a long, feverish slow burn because of its lead, Fry.
As Heidi, Fry delivers a stellar performance. It’s one that dances between apathy and extreme worry. It’s a quiet performance, but it’s also a notable one. Heidi is alone and fighting an uphill battle. No one believes that Jane is missing, instead opting for the standard narrative that is given when women go missing: “She just ran away.” Heidi has to believe that she knows her best friend to keep moving towards her. The most interesting aspect of the simplistic set design is that the road Heidi is on is filled with nothing but missing women on billboards, on fliers, and the faces of mothers begging for an ounce of help.
The ambiguity in the film’s ending is something I need to sit with. I want there to be closure for Heidi, after a long search, but I’m not sure if she gets it. While this is a thriller without much bite, the careful and emotive acting from Fry and González makes this a film that is worth the watch if you’re into slow-moving stories focused on a small handful of characters.
She’s Missing is currently available on VoD.
While this is a thriller without much bite, the careful and emotive acting from Fry and González makes this a film that is worth the watch if you’re into slow-moving stories focused on a small handful of characters.