If you’re looking for a missing-person film with a gripping plot, a mind-bending conclusion, and plenty of action thrown into the mix, Claire in Motion isn’t for you. Directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson, Claire in Motion follows the emotional journey of Claire Hunger (Betsy Brandt) after her husband, Paul Hunger (Chris Beetem), disappears on a survivalist camping trip in the woods. The premise sounds interesting enough, but trust me when I say this is no Gone Girl.
The police find Paul’s car outside the forest and scour the woods. But after several weeks without any new leads, they close the investigation. Although the police have given up, Claire continues to pursue the case. Every day, she staples missing person flyers around town with her young son, Connor. They also venture into the woods to conduct their own search for Paul. Eventually, Connor refuses to participate in the two activities, leaving Claire to investigate alone. Her efforts lead her to Allison Lorn (Anna Margaret Hollyman), a visual arts graduate student who collaborated with Paul on a project before his disappearance. Claire, who knew nothing of Paul’s work with Allison, is puzzled by this new mystery. As Claire digs deeper into Paul’s secret life, she grows increasingly resentful towards Allison and her manipulative attempts at friendliness.
Claire in Motion creeps forward with little progress on the mystery of Paul’s disappearance. Instead, the film immerses us in Claire’s emotions—or lack thereof—as she copes with her loss. Claire is a solipsistic character. She appears callous on the surface, yet you can see the wheels turning in her mind. We never actually see Paul in the movie, only during short video clips. The film never delves into flashbacks, where we can gain a sense of Paul’s character. Rather, we only see Claire and her present state.
Claire in Motion is subtly suspenseful, which is a refreshing change from the constant spoon-feeding of information in current films. It prompts us to read between the lines. For example, time passes quickly throughout the film. Claire visits different venues to staple flyers. One moment features Claire tearing down a weathered Paul poster and replacing it with a new copy. She also she waves “hello” to people as she staples flyers, suggesting she’s become a regular installment at those locations.
From an artistic perspective, I see the merit in Claire in Motion. But from an entertainment perspective, the film is dull. The plot moves slowly, and the conclusion is unsatisfying. But if you’re in the mood to analyze its intricacies, Claire in Motion is worth the watch. The cinematography is beautiful, the scenes are laden with symbolism and metaphors, and the characters are rich with meaning. Most notably, Claire in Motion is emotionally real. It offers a realistic depiction of love and loss. It also conveys a fair portrayal of missing person cases. More often than not, the families of missing people are not given a conclusion. Eventually, they must learn to cope with their loss, in whatever way they can. Claire is arguably an emotionless character, yet she continues to pursue the investigation of Paul’s disappearance. Perhaps she’s only interested in the enigma of Paul’s disappearance. However, everyone grieves differently. Trying to unpack Claire’s motivation is senseless, because how can we truly examine the complexity of loss?
Claire in Motion opens in theatres on January 13.