Absentia is a smart and atmospheric film, cleverly combining the psychological with the sinister.
Tricia is a pregnant woman living alone who is struggling with the disappearance of her husband. It’s been 7 years , important because that is the time that must pass before he can be legally declared dead, in absentia, and she can collect some insurance and move on with her life. But obviously it’s hard to move on. She poignantly wonders what happened, if he is alive, if he is happy, if he remembers her, if the memories are good. It’s an emotional struggle, I got a little teary. The unresolved loss is a brutal one.
At the same time that we witness her struggle, she receives a visit from her sister, just out of rehab,who has come to stay and offer some support. The sisters clearly love each other and seem like sisters, these actors have great chemistry, but there is much that goes unsaid. It’s been awhile, there both not ready to show all their cards.
Anyway, as the story moves forward we get some answers and some perspective. Tricia is pregnant by the detective whose been on this case forever. Apparitions of her husband haunt her, but her therapist assures her its the letting go process and she uses Buddhist meditation to will it away. Her sister, Callie, has also found religion, she is Christian and uses prayer to will away her dark cravings. I like that they are contrasting eastern and western expressions of faith here, both women are finding strength and solace in that.
But ultimately, this disappearance is not so cut and dry and things are about to get weird. Without spoiling too much, guess who turns back up? Yup, the hubs. But Daniel is not well AT ALL. He is pale, thin, bloody and freaked out. He can’t explain where he’s been or why his stomach is full of tiny animal bones. He also dreads being taken back by this vague dark force he alludes to, a lurking fear, the thing in the walls, the underneath. BOOM, and then we get really creepy and really Lovecraftian.
Callie starts looking for stories similar to his, she starts to focus on the pedestrian tunnel right by their home and strings of disappearances in that area. She becomes convinced there is something otherworldly going on, but hold on, she is an ex junkie, the harbinger no one can believe. So she investigates alone. More strange thing happens. And then she turns to her faith for insight.
Now I don’t want to give any more away, because I think you should watch this movie. But Callie stumbles upon a concept that I find very powerful, that of the victim soul and she uses it to understand why some people seem to bear so much more suffering than is normal, like in Daniel’s case. And she also uses it, combined with her belief in love and sacrifice, to find a solution, of sorts.
I dig this film. It gradually brought me in more as it progressed and never got too sentimental for me. Great lead actresses, great cinematography, creepy, moody and smart. And it’s a kickstarter success story. Like the Exorcist, it doesn’t shy away from exploring spiritual and psychological influences, but with an excellent nod to Lovecraft, it doesn’t retreat from the fact that evil exists. Or at least, maddening, indifferent forces exist.