In the indie psychological drama Missing Pieces, a kidnapper chases romance. Director Kenton Bartlett’s feature debut asks big questions and answers them with mind-bending originality.
I want to feel something real. I want to feel happy. Why is this happening?
Missing Pieces investigates the brink of wholeness. Impressively crafted on a low budget, it’s a tale of dissolution and survival, a mix of Criminal Minds and the spiritual genre.
Mark Boone Junior (Memento; Batman Begins; Sons of Anarchy) is fascinating as David Lindale, a man whose life implodes after a head injury.
With his mind and emotions fractured, David poignantly struggles to win back his exasperated ex-girlfriend Delia Greenly (Melora Walters). Soon his actions take a disturbing turn.
David on a mission
David seems gentle, but we don’t know what he’s capable of. Recovering from an accident, he has stopped taking his medication.
While making his rounds as a delivery man, David meets Maggie Anderson (Taylor Engel) and Daylen Gordon (Daniel Hassel). With the sure insight of a damaged human being, he immediately recognizes that the two are missing pieces of their lives, too.
Desperate to heal
Using sparse, strong dialogue, Bartlett (who also wrote and produced the film) weaves in excerpts from a self-help tape. These represent David’s efforts to heal and to reclaim his life.
The effect succeeds with preachy truisms like, “The only way to be happy is right here in this moment.” Loneliness becomes tangible.
David devises a plan: observe love. The world becomes his laboratory. If he can isolate two people and provide them with the right questions and instructions, can he reproduce the formula for happiness and love? Boone Junior reveals the monster within all of us.
Rich, surreal story
Constant cuts to different lives and characters obscure the narrative. The logistics behind David’s grand experiment stretch belief. The harrowing journey runs a bit too long.
Still this is a film worth seeing for its rich storytelling, challenging and original premise, and compassionate vision.
A turning point is reached when David realizes, “I need to give more.” He approaches Delia again.
Boone Junior creates an arresting portrait of despair and hope that anchors the film. Walters (Boogie Nights; Magnolia; Big Love) convinces as an aggravated woman who knows when it’s time to give up.
Engel and Hassel debut with fine performances as Maggie and Daylen discover themselves and each other under extreme conditions.
Cinematographer Jonathan Arturo uses the camera in a full, free way that captures small, personal worlds in the context of sweeping, natural landscapes. Longing, fear and anger are evoked with a beautiful, understated color palette.
Several scenes come to life like Andrew Wyeth paintings. Filmed primarily in Birmingham, Alabama, Missing Pieces was also shot in Colorado, South Dakota and Utah.
Cry from the depths
Richey Rynkowski (orchestrator assistant on Black Swan) creates original music that resonates and adds dimension.
Missing Pieces is a cry from the depths, a demand for answers from a seemingly indifferent Universe, a creepy trek towards self-actualization and love. (4 out of 5 stars)
If you like Missing Pieces, you might enjoy: The Perfect Host; Never Let Me Go.
Missing Pieces 2011 / NR / 1 hour, 57 min.
Cast Overview: Mark Boone Jr., Melora Walters, Daniel Hassel, Taylor Engel
Director: Kenton Bartlett
Genre: Indie, Psychological Drama, Suspense