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The Independent Critic

Mark Boone Jr., Melora Walters, Daniel Hassel, Taylor Engel
Kenton Bartlett
117 Mins.

 "Missing Pieces" Review 
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Are you happy?

Yes? No? Maybe?

Every moment of every day?

Or are you like most of humanity and hoping to wrestle a few moments of happiness out of each day?

With his feature film writing and directing debut, 22-year-old Kenton Bartlett wrestles with these and other universal and existential questions about life, love, hope and the seemingly endless search to find one's own missing pieces.

Missing Pieces stars Mark Boone Jr. (Memento, Batman Begins, "Sons of Anarchy") as David, a man who tries again and again and again to win back the love of Delia (Melora Walters, Magnolia & "Big Love"), who's simply not having it. As the situation turns hopeless, David concocts a scheme that he's sure will win Delia's love and turn his life around.

With intertwining story lines and genre-twisting conviction, Missing Pieces is a mesmerizing and poignant indie drama that somehow blends together pieces of relationship drama, a kidnapping, falling in love and falling apart into a nearly masterful and wholly satisfying journey of transcendent hope.

Bartlett makes quite the debut here, and it's no wonder that both Walters and Boone have given their time to such a promising young filmmaker's ultra-low budget debut. While there are moments in Missing Pieces where the film's paltry $80,000 budget is mildly noticeable, what Bartlett accomplishes in terms of sight, sound and story is nothing short of amazing.

It does help, of course, to be able to cast two performers of such power and presence as Boone and Walters. Boone, in particular, is simply extraordinary here in embodying David as a man whose very existence seems to be dancing on that fine line between sanity and sincerity. The way that Bartlett's story unfolds, we're never 100% sure exactly where David is coming from or, for that matter, where he's going. Is he evil? Is he good? Is he freakin' nuts? Has he crossed over a line from which he can't cross back? What's amazing is that whatever direction he's going, Boone brings David so patiently and quietly to life that his is a journey that leaves you completely in awe. If there's any justice in the world, Boone will see his name when next year's Independent Spirit Award nominations are announced.

While the presence of both Boone and Walters is a tremendous blessing for the film, the simple truth is that the strength of the film lies in the key performances of newcomers Daniel Hassel and Taylor Engel. Hassel and Engel are assigned the task of portraying a young man and woman who are almost absurdly in the midst of both a harrowing experience and, perhaps, discovering hope and true love. Can these two co-exist? It all depends on the performances of Hassel and Engel, and both never hit a false note.

What would happen if you weaved together elements of Christopher Nolan, Paul Thomas Anderson and even an ever so slight touch of Saw?

Missing Pieces.

By weaving together Nolan's journeys through time, Anderson's masterful ability to layer story upon story and a key plot element from that dastardly horror flick Saw, Bartlett has created a film that possesses a constant fluidity, depth and urgency that largely escapes much of contemporary cinema. The fact that he maintains the balance with tremendous success speaks well to his future as a filmmaker, a screenwriter and to his networking ability in assembling such a capable cast and crew.

D.P. Jonathan Arturo's camera work far transcends the film's modest production budget, replacing the all too frequent gimmicks and trick shots with lingering fades, wide pans of intimacy and breathtaking moments of complete stillness. Richey Rynkowski's original music is truly a calling card for the relative newcomer to line up additional projects, complementing the film with a magnificent blend of melodies both haunting and heartfelt.

Missing Pieces isn't necessarily a film for the more casual moviegoer, the moviegoer who prefers to be spoon-fed plot development and canned jokes and predictable action sequences. Instead, Missing Pieces is a film for the true fan of cinema who demands to be challenged, stimulated, inspired and psychically altered by their cinematic experiences.

Everybody needs somebody. Somebody needs you.

That's all there is to it ... unless there's more.

For more information on Missing Pieces and to stay up-to-date on its pending festival run, visit the Missing Pieces website.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic