If anyone's complaining about how linear and verbatim stories on film can be these days, then I suppose one has got to dig a little deeper and trawl through indie films to discover edgier gems like Missing Pieces which is set to challenge one's usual viewing conventions, as it forces the casual viewer to pay attention, and work at filling in the gaps between scenes, and assembling the narrative which got presented in a non-linear, extremely juxtaposed fashion.
And there's a reason for this as well. Written and directed by Kenton Bartlett, it's probably the state of mind of David Lindale (Mark Boone Junior) who had survived a harrowing car crash, only to emerge from it much different a man than he once was, leading to the love of his life Delia (Melora Walters) making an ultimatum of her own to leave him, for good. Desperate to get her back, David jumps through hoops in coming up with strategies and seeking the advice of friends, but what was probably the strangest outcome of his actions, was the decision to kidnap two teenage strangers, and make them fall in love through a series of scenarios forced upon them.
The strengths of Missing Pieces is to never know what you're going to get with each scene popping up, since they're not played in a linear fashion, with Bartlett forcing you to assemble the jigsaw yourself, and in this manner, experiencing the frustration that David is probably going through, and yet enjoying the tender moments in the brush of first love, which I suspect David is trying to recreate so that he can somehow unlock that mental block in him to feel and love once again, rather than to perpetually be in a state of indifference. At least four narrative threads got intertwined, with David's determined pursuit of Delia despite flat out rejections from the latter, the lives of Daylen (Daniel Hassel) and Maggie (Taylor Engel) respectively, and their budding romantic tale brought about by David's actions, that makes this an engaging challenge to sit through.
And I suppose many will be able to identify with the budding love story given the many questions and developed desire to want to find out more about the other party, as well as the things people do to get and stay connected. These are tender moments that the actors Hassel and Engel make believable through their excellent performance and chemistry, as is the counterpoint and parallel that exist in the disintegration of a relationship amongst the older couple David and Delia, also identifiable with if you've lived through a stinging rejection where plans fall apart, with one half of an ex-couple spiralling toward loneliness, against the springing up and out against loneliness that both Daylen and Maggie have so far experienced, in a sort of dark, ironic twist.
Although made by self-taught filmmakers, the production values of this independent production looked more like a million dollars than the 80K spent, where costs were kept low due to effort put in kind. Cinematography by Jonathan Arturo deserves special mention with his capture of the beautiful landscapes and techniques utilized that provides a unique visual eye, and I especially loved the wide shots employed. Music by Richey Rynkowksi and an eclectic soundtrack also helped to accentuate the ups and downs of emotions felt through scenes in the film, being useful cues since some scenes do get dragged out a little especially when it dwelled on the back stories of Daylen and Maggie in an effort to provide a bigger scope that didn't fit quite into the main narrative once you've worked out its linearity.
Still, Missing Pieces at its essence is a powerful love story, where one got created through circumstances, and the other how the absence and rejection from love may make one mental, which provided this film its mysterious basis to craft the story on. If it's something fresh and original in treatment something you crave for in film, then perhaps this one may be that missing jigsaw piece that you've been searching for amongst this noisy summer blockbuster period. Recommended and it definitely deserves a larger audience!
The Region 1 DVD presents the film in a gorgeous anamorphic widescreen transfer with audio in 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. No subtitles are available, and scene selection is available over 16 chapters.
Although an independent production, there are Special Features included in having a Feature Commentary by writer-director Kenton Bartlett providing an extremely detailed account on the filmmaking process so that other budding filmmakers can hopefully learn from his experience and especially his mistakes, being brutally honest about what worked, and what didn't in his debut feature film. The Making Of (30:31) is also a detailed extra containing plenty of behind the scenes look at the team's attempt at making this feature come to fruition.