This feature debut from writer-director Kenton Bartlett has a lot going for it and many points worth praising. The fact that it ultimately ends up missing a few pieces of its own is a sad irony but it’s still an excellent and earnest attempt to create something a bit unique and worthy of your time.
The fantastic Mark Boone Jr. gets the lead role here (and the film deserves bonus points for that decision alone, in my view) as David Lindale, a man who has survived and recovered from a bad car crash. Unfortunately, it’s changed him in ways that he himself can’t fathom. His girlfriend (Melora Walters) certainly knows it though, and can’t deal with the situation any longer. Desperate to learn how to put things right, David kidnaps two youngsters (Maggie, played by Taylor Engel, and Daylen, played by Daniel Hassel) and puts them through a series of bonding exercises to force them to fall in love with one another. Will it work? Will David recapture the missing pieces of himself through this exercise or does the whole thing actually highlight just how much of his old self is gone?
First of all, let me start with a few criticisms and get the bad stuff out of the way. The acting from Mark Boone Jr. and Melora Walters is superb, and their scenes are a joy to watch even when revealing some deep pains, but young Taylor Engel and Daniel Hassel struggle to convincingly go through the wringer, despite an earnestness in both performances. Nobody else is onscreen for that long so nobody else gets to make much of an impression, for better or worse.
The movie is edited in a non-chronological order, which is all well and good but feels completely unnecessary in this instance. I can’t recall one scene that had some additional impact for being out of order though it does allow Bartlett to mix together scenes that save the film from becoming too staid or bleak in places. At just under two hours in length, I’d also have to say that things could have been improved by some more pruning. The mood and look of the movie are both impressive, created by a great mix of moody audio and visuals, but it also feels as if things are held on for longer than needed.
Finally, we have the core of the movie and the points being made, the thoughts provoked – there’s a lot here to digest and consider but I couldn’t help wanting more. Things feel strangely out of context for many scenes, another downside of the non-chronological structure, but I was expecting many loose ends to be tied up by the end (and no, that certainly does not mean I wanted a neat, “Hollywood” ending) that were just left there. To say any more would spoil the movie and I’m not going to do that.
The look of the film is superb, technically it’s often on a par with many movies directed by people with a lot more experience. The script is sparse and, while not 100% successful, contains many nice vignettes and individual moments to provide an occasional treat. And we have that central pairing, which I keep wanting to praise, of Mark Boone Jr. and Melora Walters.
While Missing Pieces doesn’t come together as well as it should, or as I wanted it to, I can’t deny that it’s an accomplished and powerful debut. It’s a flawed film but a flawed, ORIGINAL film and deserves a lot of credit for that, at the very least.
DIRECTOR: KENTON BARTLETT
STARS: MARK BOONE JR, MELORA WALTERS, TAYLOR ENGEL, DANIEL HASSEL
RUNTIME: 117 MINS APPROX