Review: A Girl Missing – Yokogao (2019)

A Girl Missing – Yokogao (2019)

Directed by: Koji Fukada | 111 minutes | drama, thriller | Actors: Mariko Tsutsui, Mikako Ichikawa, Sôsuke Ikematsu, Kentez Asaka, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Nahoko Kawasumi, Miyu Ozawa, Ren Sudo, Hisako Ôkata

Libraries have been written about modern man and individualistic society. Thousands of books about the price of that individualism, the loneliness and alienation it brings. Thousands of books on social isolation and social exhaustion. As fascinating as those books are, those who want to see the true face of that individualism would rather turn to the film. Like the Japanese ‘A Girl Missing’.

In this balanced psychological drama, we focus on nursing assistant Ichiko Shirakawa. Ichiko takes care of Mrs. Oishi, a lady with dementia who lives in the house with her daughter and granddaughters. In her spare time, Ichiko secretly tutors Mrs. Oishi’s granddaughters. All goes well until one of those granddaughters doesn’t come home after a tutoring session. It seems as if the nephew of the nursing assistant knows more, but that cousin too is suddenly untraceable.

All this leads to a chain reaction of (false) accusations, ghost stories in the tabloid press and the slow demise of poor Ichiko. What works very well is that we as viewers often realize much more than Ichiko himself. Ichiko doesn’t see the looks her cousin throws at her tutor pupil (we do). Ichiko doesn’t understand the intentions of the other, not-missing daughter (we do). Ichiko doesn’t understand that the path she is walking leads ever closer to the abyss (we do).

For example, ‘A Girl Missing’ tells about ancient truths as well as about the plagues of our time. Those older truths lie in the impossibility of really knowing another. The plagues of this time are about loneliness and isolation in the big city, with the lonely Ichiko just barely talking to himself but occasionally barking. It’s also about modern media and even something fashionable like the cancel culture.

The fact that this isn’t a masterpiece is partly due to the somewhat contrived story and the equally contrived fantasy scenes. But even more so to the fact that we can last a very long time with Ichiko’s naivete, until we finally don’t believe it anymore. Especially her relationship with daughter Motoko, her blind spot for the feelings of the girl, are no longer credible at a certain point. The fact that all this is not disastrous for the film says enough about its quality.

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