A Girl Missing

*** With the revenge preoccupations of Park Chan-wook but the no-frills living-room style of Ken Loach, Japanese writer-director Koji Fukada makes movies about the echoes of guilt. The successor to his 2016 high-water mark Harmonium, A Girl Missing witnesses the unraveling and transformation of a devoted nurse named Ichiko (played by Fukada favorite Mariko Tsutsui) into a lonely woman about town. Her character shift is brought on by Ichiko's nephew dispassionately abducting the granddaughter of a patient, but this kidnapping mystery is only the initial thread in one of 2020's knottiest films. As with Harmonium, Fukada entrenches audiences in the darkest possible subject matter but omits violence or action that could rack up points for shock, style or catharsis. His tastes are unflappably drab. Meanwhile, Mariko is outstanding as a trusting woman realizing too late that accusations about the kidnapping are rippling her way. For the most part, A Girl Missing is a writing achievement. At only 40, Fukada seems a whisker away from resounding international acclaim, but he keeps stiff-arming audiences back from any version of narrative or experiential gratification. Still, if you dig a fathoms-deep script about guilt coming home to roost, consider this a loud but conflicted endorsement. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Virtual Cinema.