Because I so enjoyed the work of Oriol Paulo who wrote and directed Contratiempo and El Cuerpo, I decided to watch Boy Missing. Paulo wrote the story but the film was directed by Mar Targarona who served as producer for both Contratiempo and El Cuerpo. When these two artists collaborate, the result is simply stupendous.
Boy Missing begins when a boy, injured and disoriented, is discovered wandering in a country road by a motorist. At the hospital, the boy is unresponsive to the questions of the police. When his mother, Patricia, arrives, she tells them that her son, Victor, is deaf and communicates via sign language.
At the police station, after Victor has been discharged from the hospital, he relates how a man who looked like one of the school gardeners hit him and made him faint. When he came to, he was in a dark place that was moving. He was brought to a house in a forest but he escaped. Working with the police, Victor describes the man’s features, and the composite matches the face of Carlos Coronas, a.k.a. Charlie, who was released from prison three years earlier.
Charlie is brought in for questioning but, with no hard evidence, is eventually released. With the inability of the police to lock up Charlie and charge him with kidnapping, Patricia, a high profile lawyer whose clients are not always innocent, seeks the help Raul, a married man, father of Victor, and a former client whose shady connections would ensure that Charlie could be effectively scared into staying away from Victor.
Meanwhile, the police discover that at the time of the kidnapping, Charlie was at the site of an illegal dog fight. A photo from a traffic camera proves that Charlie was in another part of the town and was too far to be anywhere near Victor at the time of the kidnapping.
In an attempt to start over, the police show Victor mug shots. Victor points to one man who, according to the records, committed suicide in prison weeks before the kidnapping. Victor finally admits that he ran away from school because his classmates had been bullying him.
Patricia, realizing her misguided attempt to scare Charlie, contacts Raul. But the plan was already in the process of being carried out. Raul’s men had followed Charlie to the to the dog fight. They contacted Patricia to tell her that there were complications and that Charlie was dead. They would take care of the corpse but they wanted six million to disappear. Patricia then receives a photo of a bloodied Charlie on her phone. Threatened with harm and her professional ruin, Patricia decides to pay.
Like Contratiempo and El Cuerpo, the story of Boy Missing is not what it seems. Oriol Paulo is so good with that. He tells a story, fills the storytelling with suspenseful twists and turns, only to reveal in the end that there was another story that you might not have missed had you been paying attention to little details. I caught on early on with Contratiempo but not with El Cuerpo. And I missed it altogether with Boy Missing. I had to see the film a second time just to find out where I had been led astray and in which scene I should have realized my mistake.
The final twist in Boy Missing is brilliant. But it may not satisfy moviegoers who like to make a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. In Boy Missing, the good guys are villains and victims at the same time. And that includes Victor who, in his shame and fear, wove an elaborate tale of kidnapping and pointed to an innocent man he had never seen before rather than admit that he had been unable to fend off the bullies in school.
And when Patricia, the successful lawyer who has become rich defending guilty clients without remorse, is forced to pay six million to clean up a mess that she herself initiated, it’s hard to feel sad for her. And in that final twist when you realize that she has been outwitted and outmaneuvered by people with even worse morals than her, it’s even harder to feel sympathy nor pity. My only thought was that it was poetic justice.