Released 2022. Director: Warren Dudley
OUT OF CURIOSITY, I LOOKED UP some statistics on missing children after seeing Six Years Gone. According to the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, this is the conservative number of kids reported missing every year: 20,000 in Australia, 45,000 in Canada, 96,000 in India, 112,000 in the UK and a staggering 460,000 in the USA, that’s roughly 53 every hour.
Do you know where your children are?
Writer-director Warren Dudley has tapped into a universal parental fear, doesn’t matter where you live. His new movie Six Years Gone will be a particularly unnerving viewing if you have young children. Eleven-year-old Olivia, nicknamed Lolly, disappears after school when her grandma forgets to pick her up. There’s talk of a white van seen nearby but the cops have next to no leads. The girl has vanished and somebody’s got her.
What makes the film effective, among several reasons, is the straightforward manner Dudley tells the story. The narrative focuses resolutely on how Lolly’s mum Carrie lives with the anguish of losing her daughter. Direct and blunt in its raw emotions, sometimes her agony can be confronting to watch. The reality portrayed is so matter-of-fact and unsentimental it could almost pass as a docu-drama, which only makes the situation more chilling.
The initial scenes before Lolly’s disappearance serve to establish a contrast, setting up a before-and-after. Carrie has a close relationship with her daughter; they live in a nice house; there’s friendship and even a new love on the horizon for the single mum. All this starts to fall apart the afternoon Lolly is abducted. Carrie is a little boat unmoored, drifting out to a stormy sea without a compass.
Six years later we see Carrie is a shadow of her former self. She spends her days looking after her mother who has dementia. Her job as a cleaner barely makes ends meet. She becomes a junkie and is forced by circumstances into prostitution. But she never gives up hope of finding her daughter.
For much of the story thus far you could fairly predict where it’s heading, but it’s what follows that takes the film up a level. Without any dramatic twists, Dudley slyly turns the narrative round a corner and dials up the tension. The detective on the case shows Carrie a photo and if you’ve paid close attention in an earlier scene you’d share in Carrie’s disturbing suspicion.
Dudley makes a few incisive choices that render Carrie’s isolated mental space even more acute. Carrie's best friend we saw earlier in the movie has drifted apart and their meeting after a long absence is awkward and lacking in sincerity. We never see either Carrie’s ex-husband or her brother, only hear snatches of dismembered voices on the phone. These two men closest to Carrie are not only faceless but decidedly useless. Carrie is left to fight on her own and the one thing that will stick in your mind vividly after the credits rolled is a mother’s solo anguish.
What drives the film is undoubtedly Carrie’s experience, and what brings this never-ending ordeal to life is the searing performance by Veronica Jean Trickett. Her name may not be familiar to many but it deserves more media attention and acclaim after Six Years Gone. We can empathise with Carrie and clench our fists to see the agony she goes through because her portrayal is believable. Trickett’s compelling work reminds me of Naomi Watts in her Oscar-nominated role as a grieving mother in 21 Grams. Trickett takes the audience through an emotional journey, right up to a drawn-out moment of existential distress which Dudley films with a dispassionate, unblinking long take.
Six Years Gone is the most harrowing film you’ll see this year. A modest independent film made with a tiny budget but delivers a mighty jolt.
Visit www.sixyearsgone.com to view trailer and find out how you can watch the film.
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