Roos (Rifka Lodeizen) returns to her mother and younger brother after many years away from the family home. Roos works as a photographer and her work has taken her across the world, but she returns home with a terrible secret; she is incurably ill. Unable to find the right time and the right words to tell her family, Roos spends time at home getting to know her family again, but it is only a matter of time before the truth must come out.
Screening at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, Disappearance is a beautifully shot, melancholy film which has a powerful story to tell, but seems to be never quite sure just how to tell it.
Rifka Lodeizen leads the cast as Roos, who seems to be seeing everything around her family home for the first time, and makes it clear that she has slowed down for the first time in years. Roos’ relationship with her mother Louise (Elsie de Brauw) is fraught and tense, although arguments almost never break out, but there is a tenderness with her younger brother Bengt (Marcus Hanssen). It s in the moments with Bengt that the melancholy of Roos becomes apparent, giving the film some depth and warmth.
It is hard to think of Jolein Laarman’s screenplay for Disappearnce without comparing it to Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only The End of the World, thankfully however, where Dolan’s film was filled with shouting and impatience, Laarman does make sure that Disappearance is a show and thoughtful film, although this mean it struggles with pacing from time to time. There are also many open ends throughout the film; although it is never mentioned just what Roos is suffering from, this is not important, but scenes where Roos is inappropriately affectionate toward her younger brother hint at a reason why she has stayed away from home for so long, a reason that is never explored.
As director Boudewijin Koole has created a beautifully shot film that plays with the idea of life and death, and the idea of slowing down and appreciating the people in your life, but the film is languidly paced throughout, leaving it frustrating at times then rushing to find a conclusion. The performances in the film are strong, but there are times when the actors feel as though they are fighting against the screenplay, rather than working within it.
In all, Disappearance is a familiar story of an adult child returning home to make peace and face their own mortality. The film is beautifully shot, and there are some beautiful moments throughout, but there are too many plot strands that are introduced and dismissed without being fully explored for the film to feel fulfilling or anything more than superficial.