Dir. Heitor Dhalia, 2012, 95 mins.
Review by Ruth Sullivan
The premise of Gone is a promising one. Jill Parrish’s (Seyfried) sister is snatched from her bed late at night when Jill is at work. Jill is convinced that it is the work of the same man who kidnapped her, imprisoned her in a hole in the woods and attempted to murder her a year before. The problem is that nobody believes Jill. After her escape no evidence was ever found of her kidnap and Jill was incarcerated in a mental hospital. The police think Jill is crazy and so she embarks on a desperate race to save her sister and prove the killer exists.
The film however, fails to deliver on what could have been an intense and dark thriller. One of the major problems is the short running time of the film . Whilst it is ordinarily pleasant not to have to sit through a bumb-numbingly epic run time that’s symptomatic of a lot of Holloywood’s bloated fayre, the problem here was that the pace of the plot allowed no time to build any kind of relationship with any character other than Jill, and even then only in the barest sense of the word.
The sense of jeopardy is completely lost as Jill careens through a world populated by caricature supporting characters and a hilarious parade of creepy men – the disbelieving cop, the creepy guy over the road, the dodgy janitor – and these caricatures are really, truly laughable. It’s as if the screenwriter opened the big book of sinister male stereotypes and lumped them all in for good measure. It’s a pity because there is a strong supporting cast, such as Wes Bentley who’s really struggled to find a role that quite matches up to his stunning turn in American Beauty. Here it is hardly worth him appearing at all. Due to the quickfire appearances and short set pieces of Jill in peril the plot descends rapidly in to melodrama.
The other troubling undertone here is the underlying attitude towards men and women. All men are potential violent murderers and women are victims. Both Jill and her sister are messed up young women with addiction and grief in their past. I suspect this was done mostly to throw doubt on Jill as a narrator, however all the film really does is turn her in to a morally dubious, untrustworthy woman and this is part of a bigger problem with how mental health is used in Hollywood films as a plot device. It also sends an odd message about violence towards women – don’t report it because the police won’t believe you anyway.
Seyfried herself does remarkably well. It would have been easy to take the character and make her too twitchy and extreme and given the limitations of the script and heavy handed plot devices, Seyfried reigns this in exceptionally deftly. Seyfried is a captivating actress and just unusual enough to have great potential as an indie movie star. It would be wonderful to see her starring in something that truly tests her dramatic acting abilities, but Gone certainly isn’t the film to launch her in to that sphere. Ultimately, it’s a bit of mess of a film and it’s telling that the audience was laughing throughout. A disappointing entry in the serial killer genre.