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You think you know someone. Especially the person with whom you have fallen in love and share a home. Can’t be too many secrets at that point except a few embarrassing skeletons in the closet, right? Of course, movies have long played with this idea; this and the suddenly missing loved one. With Come And Find Me, we think we know what we’re in for, but thankfully, we don’t.
David (Aaron Paul) and Claire (Annabelle Wallis) play a game. They ride the same bus and pretend they don’t know each other, giving each other curious glances as they do. One gets off and the other follows, still keeping up the charade until they reach a house. They feign shock when they say they both live their and then . . . keep up the act all while they strip down and have sex. We see they are truly in love with life long plans.
And so it is not surprising at first when David wakes in the morning in an empty bed. She didn’t leave a note but he figures she stepped out. No big deal. Hours pass though and worry settles in. He works his way about the neighborhood hotspots where she might hang out, however, no one has seen her. Police promise to do their best, but a wall littered with missing person’s posters (that has much to reveal later) doesn’t inspire hope. And so the days roll by. Then weeks. And well after a year without a word, he’s tried to move on but she lingers in his mind, in the corners of his home, and in the memories that haunt.
One evening though, David has dinner with an old friend, someone Claire knew in college. He spends the night at David’s house, preparing to travel, but the next day, David discovers a terrible surprise and it sends him on a desperate new search where the truth about a girl he once knew as Claire is not at all what he thought. Now he’ll do anything to find her, and it could cost him his life.
Written and directed by Zack Whedon, Come And Find Me opens in familiar territory, establishing the ‘good couple’ before revealing the obvious first twist. It seems to know that this will be no surprise and does it right by getting it done straight away. It then spends much of the remaining runtime layering the plot with flashbacks that give insight to Claire and her relationship with David. What works is how these always playful and romantic glimpses into their past become tainted by troubling questions as David unearths Claire’s real story. Or at least the story that is murky and uncomfortable in the early days before becoming increasingly dangerous.
The mistaken identity genre is one that often makes for great setups but disappointing ends with many unable to connect the dots as well they could. Part of the problem is the compulsion by filmmakers and studios to try and keep going bigger, to fill the screen with more and more explosive action, which leaves little room for making the story smart. Whedon doesn’t shy away from action, but he’s more interested in challenging us than numbing us. Take a moment when David stumbles into a hornets nest of trouble when he walks into a room of some seriously dangerous people he shouldn’t. What would have been a long, literally torturous sequence in most any other film, is instead a brief but brittle moment of tension that ends with David fleeing on a bike and works surprisingly well for it. That it’s followed by David turning the tables on them in the next scene is also handled right, mostly because of Aaron Paul.
Paul has the hardest job of course. In a film like this, it’s the one on the mission that bears the burden of believability, and one way many films get around this is having the character come packed with a history, be it some military or special forces or what not. With David though, he’s just a graphic designer and when he’s thrust into defense, even a hammer in his hands looks awkward. But he is resourceful, and he learns quickly that what he sees is not what it appears, and Paul is very good at convincing us. It’s a standout performance. What I like is how Whedon trusts us to follow David’s thinking, never feeling as if he needs to paint with broad colors. It’s all about the subtleties.
What Claire is and why she disappears is the film’s big twist of course, and yet, Whedon again, doesn’t try to make this a big ah-ha moment, rather letting it feel organic while forcing us to roll with it, just as David must. There are some conventions at play that sometimes weaken a few moments, and one character, who is very well played and seems set up to deliver something bigger just up and vanishes, but thanks to a good script and two strong leading performances, doesn’t hurt the overall experience too much.
Come And Find Me is a strong directorial debut from Whedon and despite a few contrivances, is extremely satisfying, taking the genre and doing some well-executed flips. It might not be the big action thriller you think it is, but all the better, it is something smarter. See it.
Director: Zack Whedon
Writer: Zack Whedon
Stars: Aaron Paul, Annabelle Wallis, Garret Dillahunt
Genre: Drama, Thriller