Heidi (Lucy Fry) and Jane (Eiza González) are best friends and live in something of a nowhere location of New Mexico where the former is a diner waitress and the latter works at the local rodeo. They like to head off into the desert to lose themselves in the landscape for a while, sometimes with Jane on horseback, but there may be more to their relationship for Heidi than either of them are prepared to acknowledge. Jane aspires to be Queen of the Rodeo, believing this will be her ticket out of there, and is often imploring her pal to set her sights higher than simply waiting on tables for the rest of her life, but she is fairly content with her lot, no matter what Jane says...
Until, that is, an element of her life is taken away and she begins to question her existence. There is a significant scene early on in writer and director Alexandra McGuinness' film where a mother asks Heidi at the diner where she works if she has seen her daughter, for the girl disappeared and as there are plenty of such vanishings in this area, she feels the absent person has been forgotten about. Is there something sinister going on, which is your first thought, or is this situation more to do with this place being a no-hoper residence the most ambitious young women make a point of leaving far behind as soon as they are old enough to do so? Our heroine is about to find that out.
Though not immediately, as she has to deal with Jane's impatience with her lot on life, wishing her friendship was enough to keep her by her side, and not admitting that she has a deep love for the girl that is not sexual, more born from their bond that should be supportive yet Jane is making moves to escape from, Heidi through no fault of her own emblematic of the smalltown mindset she wants to abandon. However, when around the halfway mark the title of the movie makes itself plain, and Jane really does go missing, is this down to her setting off for a better existence that fulfils her in a way that even the rodeo has failed to, or has she been spirited away by sinister forces just as many are suspicious has happened to the other missing girls? Although you may not expect it, you do discover the answer to that question.
Therefore this may have been a mystery drama, yet it was not a thriller, so Heidi does not bust a human trafficking operation and liberate a group of sex slaves while armed to the teeth and trying out some martial arts moves into the bargain. McGuinness kept the mood low key and enigmatic, which as she was frequently making use of the New Mexican desert was highly effective in rendering the atmosphere of the picture absorbing, whether you were leaning towards investment in these characters or not. Locations such as this had been a bonus for filmmakers ever since the days of the fifties science fiction flicks as far as mystery went, and She's Missing was little different, somehow this choice boosted what could have been a shade too basic as far as the plotting was concerned, until Josh Hartnett showed up anyway.
Yes, the former next big thing of the noughties Josh Hartnett had a role here, and one which he was effective in given it traded on his physical attraction yet was able to make you uneasy about his character too. But in the main it was the broken connection betwixt Heidi and Jane that compelled, well delivered by both Fry and González to have you convinced these two had been fast friends for some time, but now, sadly, that time was ending, be that forcibly or because they wanted to spend their days doing different things. There are men in their lives, but none of them are able to provide anything like the support that they could for each other, thus creating a poignancy that Jane is drifting away from this intimacy. This played games with perception, including scenes of drug taking to state that some need to be taken away from the world as we know it into other realms, but there was nothing to indicate it did any good. The final shot was appropriately ambiguous, maybe in Heidi's mind, maybe actual, but overall this was a quietly haunting piece. Music, also haunting, by David Harrington.
[SHE'S MISSING is released on iTunes (click here) and On Demand from 1st July on Sky Store, Virgin Media, Google Play, Youtube and Amazon.]