A slippery hold on reality: Feltbeats.com reviews Tom Felton’s “The Disappeared”

This is what you have to do: Wear ear muffs, close your eyes, and imagine what a ghost town would feel and look and sound like just before a storm hits. Do you feel the eeriness of the empty streets? Do you feel the wind creeping along your skin and making your hair rise? Do you feel despair that you are the only person left alive? Matthew Ryan might know a little bit of what you’re feeling.

The Disappeared, a film co-written by Neil Murphy and Johnny Kevorkian, who is also the director, tells of an adolescent boy (Harry Treadaway) troubled by a guilt that is slow-brewing and all-encompassing. His little brother (Lewis Lemperuer Palmer) has gone missing, and everyone except Matthew Ryan believes that little Tom Ryan is dead. Why? That’s simple enough: Tom is talking to Matt from beyond… somewhere, trying to communicate a message that Matt just doesn’t seem to be able to grasp.

In fact, Matt doesn’t seem to be able to get a grasp on anything. From the beginning, he is isolated. The camera angles used help to heighten this when they present shots of Matt behind some impenetrable material, be it bars, a fence, Tom’s bedposts, or glass. He is talked about a lot as if he isn’t there; in the first shot, for instance, the screen fades from black to the scene, and we hear voices talking, but the image is of Matt’s silent face. Even when he talks to Simon Pryor (Tom Felton), his best friend, their usual connection, seen in the flashback, has disappeared. Simon’s joke about Matt needing to go back to his “whack shack” should have been taken by Matt to be all in good fun, especially since Simon forbids his sister Sophie (Georgia Groome) from making the same joke, but Matt gets riled up, and the friendship starts deteriorating from there. Furthermore, from the beginning, Matt primarily communicates with ghosts, even the people who appear to be alive are not all there — through either their characterization or plot line, or the fact that, like the man Matt talks to at the get-together, they are just there to whisper things. “This place is full of [ghosts],” the Medium rightly says.

Matt’s slippery hold on reality, as illustrated by his relationships, is heightened by Simon’s desperate hold on it. Their first conversation shows how these characters’ storylines are paralleled: Matt says, “I met this girl.” to which Simon responds, “Jesus Christ, that was quick. Is she fit?” “It’s not like that,” Matt nonchalantly answers, not backing himself up when Simon calls him a loser because of his apparently abnormal behavior. The arc of that conversation and the next one, where they discuss their futures – planned by Simon and unplanned by Matt – show the mirror-opposite characters that Tom Felton and Harry Treadaway play. Several similar occurrences, though with opposing reactions, increase the intensity of their disconnect. For instance, both speak of watching television, but while Matt talks about watching old videos of the news reports, Simon talks about contemporary shows. Another important example is that, though both of their siblings get abducted after being dismissed by their older brothers, their conclusions are antithetical.

Tom Felton and Harry Treadaway play these opposing magnets very well, having a believable chemistry despite, or even because of, their differences — their lives gravitating to similar ends, notwithstanding the counterbalanced characters they play, are acted out very realistically. Tom Felton especially, whose character is probably the sanest out of the lot, plays a character fiercely maintaining his hold on rational thought admirably, denying the unbelievable for most of the film, and even trying to bring Matt back into the natural fold.

In fact, out of all the “ghosts” that Matt talks with, Simon is the most alive, and it’s not surprising that they have a falling out because of that. Each of them tries to pull the other to their side. Part of the eerie factor of this film is the lack of facial expressions that lends the ghost-like aura of both the characters and their settings. Tom Felton’s superb furthering of this story just by the continual spectrum of facial expressions he uses – more than any other character’s – infuses the story with life and hope. Tom Felton as Simon Pryor is really one of the characters who brought the movie to life. That classic scary-movie phrase that we all shout at our favorite characters – “Don’t go in there, you idiot!” – as if this time they’ll listen, was, it must be said, completely reserved for Simon.

Watch the movie carefully, and you’ll see all the clues the filmmakers leave for you, in order to make your own conclusions. A couple of hints, perhaps?

Kevorkian’s use of color schemes helps to intensify the tone of the movie. Most of the flashbacks, for instance, are warm colors. Matt’s jacket is blue, the same hue that fogs over the rest of the movie, but his clothes always have a hint of that nostalgic red. Simon’s jacket at the beginning has brown, earthy colors on it. Indeed, the plot could be traced by the colors, from what the characters wear – specifically Simon, but also Matt – to the props that are used, and even through the fade-aways. Only once does the screen fade from one scene to the other in a red haze. Notice the characters in those scenes? Not to give anything major away, but the color changes, especially in clothes, foreshadow things to come. Remember that Simon’s car is red – pay attention to that color especially – and it’s in a junk yard, a cemetery in its own right.

Another interesting method that Kevorkian utilizes is point of view. While a lot of films switch constantly from one character’s perspective to the other, Matt is ninety percent of the perspective of this movie, which, itself, is telling. The secondary character, based on the amount of time his perspective is given to us, is Simon, whose point of view is always wordless. The movie only changes its Matt-Perspective three times in total, but I won’t tell you who the other two characters are.

The Disappeared is an entrancing film that, reminiscent of movies like Stay (2005), tugs on the viewers’ sense and hold on reality. What, exactly, is the title referring to? Who or What has disappeared? How can these “ghosts” touch things and pass them on to the living? Like a good mystery, it urges the viewer to watch multiple times for clues they might have missed. Tom Felton’s and Harry Treadaway’s impressive acting skills, whether silent – particularly and impressively in Tom Felton’s case – or not, are two of the highlights of this film. Watch them closely, very closely. The clues are subtle, but they’re all there for the taking, if you can just connect them.

In telling my friend that she had to watch this movie, I made the comment that The Disappeared was not a conventional Hollywood horror. “It has an atmospheric scariness,” I told her. She laughed at my odd description, but it’s perfectly true. It is a quiet movie. Artistic in the way it frightens. This movie will not make you scream – I don’t think it was made to make you scream. Instead, it will make you gasp. It will make your heart beat anxiously. It will sift through your skin until it’s under it, and you are questioning the reality of the movie: what is fact, what is fiction; and how, then, does one explain this or that anomaly? And you will want to watch it again and again, trying to find the thread that you could unravel so you could lay the plot down in one bold, straight line. See, there’s a little something that you’re missing. There, on the left-and-center part of the screen, minute seventy-one. Yes, right there. Don’t look away, don’t blink, or it’ll disappear before you can exhale.

17 thoughts on “A slippery hold on reality: Feltbeats.com reviews Tom Felton’s “The Disappeared”

  1. that just made me realllllllllly want to see this now =]
    and I loathe horror movies

  2. wow, the story of the movie sure is interesting. And I’m very curious to see Tom acting other than Draco now LOL Anna & the King is waaaaaay old 😛

  3. @feltbeats 🙂 I LessThanThree u, u know. Thanks, that’s sweet of u. And u’re positively welcome for the SCs!@ least it wasn’t H.Treadaway 😉

  4. Thanks you for the résumé.

    It’s the proof than the fact we could get in touch with those whom had passed away, is being still questioned nowadays from all the angles, of what’s possible or not.

    It’s true also than silences invite more to thinking over that annoying reminicences.

    With Love,


  5. Love that film! Love Simon’s a little scruffy look (esp the beautifully dirty fingernails, lol), and average-boy-character. So different from the smug Malfoy!
    Thanks for all the screenshots. Can’t stop marvelling at Tom’s long eyelashes! 😉

  6. I watched this film. It was released in korea rep. but it was just a kind of event, an independent film festival. so it was pretty hard to get a ticket to a reasonable time.
    Anyhow, it was absolutely an impressive film. I want to buy a DVD someday.

  7. Someone uploaded it on Youtube a while back. Unfortunately, I don’t see it. 🙁

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