Concealed is an Australian independent movie from writer/director Shane T Hall and is a curious part-thriller, part-character study that’s smartly filmed and finds a solid, central narrative throughout. However, this isn’t a film full of joy and while it keeps its mysteries cleverly covered up, it loses focus when they try to layer too much but, for the moment, let’s give it all a closer look.
After an opening sequence that sees Sallie (Nadia Townsend) and Max (Simon Lyndon) return from living abroad and back home to Sydney, Australia, she mysteriously goes missing before we even know what’s going on. While the Police are called, they don’t really seem to do anything (despite that classic 48 hour rule) and so Max ends up taking the search into his own hands because there are a few clues that give him hope.
His suspicions include someone following them on their way home from the airport, two phone calls to his girlfriend before he fell asleep on the sofa, her missing wallet and an elephant toy. From these small things, Max and his life-long friend Richard begin their own hunt. Even in these early stages, it doesn’t feel like your ‘standard’ chase-story because something feels quite strange, even if we don’t know why.
Max, played by Simon Lyndon, is an odd ball in a Willem Dafoe-type mould from the start and while we do know he was asleep when Sallie goes missing, we don’t know much more. In these early stages, it’s difficult to side with a character when there’s no backstory, or suggestion of one, because anything can happen. While in some contexts this is great, it’s also a major issue for me because I want some kind of trait within their character to understand.
Concealed is all about being character-driven but when no-one has a background, or history, this isn’t always mysterious and this is especially true because Max doesn’t feel like your ‘everyman’, He unhinged from the beginning, so it’s difficult to connect in a really meaningful sense. As the plot continues, Max and his mate stay on the hunt for Sallie while the Police hardly follow anything up. Is this a comment on understaffed Policing, or just underwritten? I can’t completely decide on that because it feels like a missed opportunity, especially when they turn up randomly later on after you’ve forgotten they’re involved.
Concealed has enough to keep the interest ticking over but you might lose interest occasionally due to sheer lack of positive-feeling that’s not even close to seeping through, and also haphazard plot-holes/time hops don’t always make sense. That being said, and to end on positives, the film does hold an impressive tension throughout, and dares to be bold with gritty, dark cinematography in a sunny climate. I can almost picture the film re-cast in a rainy wet, cold and wind-swept city to take the whole atmosphere up a notch and really help the narrative play with dark shadows and murky secrets.