Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a film is going to be good by just watching the first ten minutes. I have many associates who say that if a book or a film doesn’t capture their attention within the first 50 pages or ten minutes they’ll just tune out or stop altogether missing what could be a genuinely good book or film. This was my impression of Absentia (2011) which starts off very mundane and incidental.
Absentia concerns sisters Tricia and Callie (Courtney Bell and Katie Parker, respectfully) who are reunited after not having seen each other for years. Callie has been traveling trying to find her place in the world when she returns home to her sister whose husband mysteriously disappeared years earlier and she is trying to legally have him declared dead in absentia. Just when Tricia is finally getting over the disappearance of her husband and building a new relationship with her sister Callie her husband mysteriously returns. He is disoriented, dehydrated, and exhausted as if he had been under some sort of unique captivity and torture. The only thing Tricia’s husband keeps rambling about is the tunnel by their home.
This rambling about the tunnel near their home leads Callie to start investigating and she discovers that their neighborhood is a place of many disappearances and she believes that a bum that she saw in the tunnel may have also been another one of these people that have gone missing. Now she must discover the truth about her brother-in-law and the tunnel before whatever happened in the tunnel happens to her as well.
For most of the film’s running time it appears like a run-of-mill slow burning drama but things get a little more supernatural during the last third of the film with barely a hint of what is to come. This may turn off a few viewers who want things to happen faster but I enjoy the slow burn which allows the viewer to get to know the characters before things get really weird and even more exciting.
Absentia is not an easy film to categorize as it strives very hard to present a film very much in the tradition of a Twilight Zone episode that doesn’t rely on the overtly supernatural but does contain those subtle touches that by the end will completely satisfy even the most jaded of audience member.