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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 02.25.15] Argentina thriller drama mystery

Three kids go missing overnight. They return the next morning naked and zombie like. No one knows what's happened to them but something has happened leaving all three have essentially mute, as one adult notes, likely as a cause of the trauma they suffered while away from their families for the night. Upon their return, the small town starts to come apart at the seams.

For a moment, I thought The Returned was a movie version of the hit French TV series of the same name but that's not the case. The three missing kids might not be themselves but they're also not zombies but as The Returned unfolds, it does seem like they're possessed by some power that is working against the small town to right the wrongs that have long been pushed under the rug. An investigator comes into town to look into the disappearance and in the process of his investigation, he begins to uncover some of the town's dark secrets and the townsfolk begin to unravel.

The mystery of the disappearance of the three children at the core of Iván Noel's The Returned is interesting, mostly because Noel isn't really concerned as to the how or why the three kids went missing. They are simply a catalyst for what comes next. The Returned slowly begins to develop amnd gets particularly interesting after the kid's return. As various secrets come to light, the entire thing turns into a domino effect: one secret leads to another leads to another and the next thing you know, The Returned isn't so much about the missing kids as it is about small town living and the work that goes into keeping such a place going. The Returned is really a tale of what keeps societies going as well as the cost, both moral and physical, of keeping and burying secrets.

As The Returned begins to unfurl and the town begins to implode, the supernatural aspects start to take hold the problem is, they're never really explained. The kids are at the centre of the story but we never learn why they were taken, where they went to and why. The mystery isn't of direct importance in the second act, mostly because the unfolding drama around them is complicated and intense, but the disappearance does play an integral role in the final act and we never find out the details of what happened and why.

Noel occasionally lets the movie escape into wordless scenes that feel like an homage to Malick but as beautiful as those scenes are, they don't move the story along and feel like self indulgent moments that are there to pad running time. Still, I did enjoy The Returned, most notably because for most of the running time, it avoids confronting the what and why of the missing kids and instead focuses on the town as a whole.

With great performances, particularly from Jorge Booth as the inspector and Edmee Aran as the judge, gorgeous cinematography, subtle genre moments and a unique approach, Noel manages to breathe some new life into a familiar story. The Returned is well worth a look.

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JeffC (7 years ago) Reply

Looks interesting enough. It's funny there was this film too, which was rather good.


Marina (7 years ago) Reply

Good call! I was a fan of that one!

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