DIRECTOR Mike Flanagan WRITER Mike Flanagan STARS Katie Parker; Courtney Bell; Dave Levine DVD 9 July
Delightfully creepy and boasting a deft handle of ambiguity, Absentia is one of the better low-budget indie titles this year. Intriguing from the off, the suspense is meted with care throughout, making for an engrossing experience overall. Whilst we consign the dreadful Iron Sky and the brashness of its ‘look at us, we’re fan-funded’ marketing to distant memory, it is good to see a Kickstarter project that delivers a genuine film with something to say. A pleasure, in fact.
What serves Absentia best is that aforementioned ambiguity. Opening with the heavily pregnant Tricia distributing the last of her flyers in hopeful search of her missing husband, it is clear that this is not a story that will hand-hold; when her sister, Callie, arrives, their conversation does not labour points surrounding his disappearance. Daniel has been gone for seven years, Tricia will soon apply to have his death certified, and there is little embellishment surrounding this basic premise. Nor is a heavy hand used to underline Callie’s former drug addiction; it is enough for us to know that she is recently out of rehab. The script uses this minimalistic approach throughout, which complements the mystery element to the film perfectly, amplifying suspense. It takes considered pacing to deliver this type of storytelling well without descending into irritating vagueness — for instance a detective refers to the neighbourhood’s reputation, but does not elaborate — and it’s clear that director/writer Mike Flanagan’s experience as an editor benefits Absentia greatly in this aspect.
Certainly the film will keep you guessing for a respectable length of time in, a number of possibilities for explanation presented, all eventually tied together in an excellent balance of subplot. Working so hard to maintain its mystery, I consider it a disservice to discuss the premise to further depth. Really, there is little to criticise here (other than an at times intrusive soundtrack if I really must quibble). Highly recommended.