When casino worker and amateur rodeo queen Jane (Eiza González) disappears, her best friend, local diner waitress Heidi (Lucy Fry) is the only person in their hardscrabble New Mexico town who even seems to notice, let alone care.

Increasingly concerned for her missing friend’s welfare, Heidi launches her own investigation, exploring the seedy local, drug-fuelled party scene and venturing deeper into the desert’s dark, dusty heart…

A languid portrait of female frenemies masquerading as a psychological thriller (try to imagine David Lynch remaking Me Without You. On mescaline…), I’m guessing every review you read of Alexandra McGuinness’ She’s Missing (including this one…) will feature prominently the words “woozy”, “hallucinatory” and/or “fever dream”.

This isn’t a criticism. Or if it is, it’s a criticism of myself and fellow critics. Because She’s Missing is a woozy fever dream, Heidi’s journey soaked in a hazy, creeping, druggy dread, the desert itself an ominous, malevolent presence, always lurking in the background, ready to swallow up unfortunate innocents as the crowded wall of missing posters in the diner attests, the missing all women, all young, mostly forgotten, Heidi’s search precipitating encounters with local sleazoids and a sinister Manson-like cult and leading to some unpalatable truths, not least about the nature of her friendship with Jane.

Not much actually happens over the course of the film’s 100-or-so minutes – Jane disappears, Heidi looks for her – McGuinness balances a satisfyingly complex dissection of dysfunctional female friendship with a dreamlike atmosphere of mystery and threat that almost makes the film feel like a modern feminist fairy tale, Jane being both damsel in distress and big, bad wolf. Seen almost solely through Heidi’s adoring gaze, the petulant, vibrant, impulsive Jane is worldly and glamorous, too big to be contained by the confines of their small desert backwater. She’s not a particularly pleasant character however, a small town Mean Girl, and there’s a sense that the friendship may be a little one-sided; that Heidi needs Jane, more than Jane needs Heidi. When she disappears, Heidi is the only one who notices she’s gone, the only one who cares enough to look for her, and as her quest takes her deeper into her friend’s life, Heidi’s confidence grows, Jane’s influence fades, diminishes.

While Eiza González brings a self-absorbed charisma to Jane, by necessity she’s never more than a cipher seen only through Heidi’s starry but Lucy Fry as Heidi delivers a solid, finely judged performance, steel lurking just beneath her character’s initial hunched awkwardness, her playful courtship scenes with Christian Carmago’s Lyle, a passing wannabe cowboy whom she enters into a fleeting romance with, are the best in the film though Josh Hartnett’s oily charm as a creepy, reptilian cult leader almost steals the film.

As a thriller, She’s Missing may be as lost as it’s protagonists but McGuinness has style to burn and while the film may ultimately be anticlimactic, a hallucinatory snake eating its own tail, it feels strangely satisfying.  

Movie Review: She's Missing
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