THE UNSEEN *** USA 2016 Dir: Geoff Redknap. 106 mins
Aden Young is a hard-working, hard-drinking timber mill worker in this sombre take on a familiar genre theme. He has been estranged from his now-17-year-old daughter for the last eight years while haunted by past glories as a prominent professional ice hockey prospect and memories of a traumatic childhood. Prices are rising rapidly on the illegal substances he needs to get through a working week and, after being seriously wounded in a crash on an icy road, he takes a job as a drug runner to make some extra dough. The mystery of why he keeps completely wrapped up all of the time gradually unravels in this elegiac story of a guy who is metaphorically and literally vanishing as time marches on. Dominated by his bleak outlook (“Everybody gets hurt”), the film would be compelling enough in its central theme without the need for extraneous characters and sub-plots that make it unnecessarily baggy at times. The turning point is his daughter’s disappearance following an ill-advised jaunt with friends at the abandoned asylum – in which Young’s father resided for much of his life. It’s a bold meld of one of the horror genre’s signature “monsters” and an authentically sparse portrait of an economically declining, wintry Canadian town. Genre elements aside, it fares best as a poignant portrait of a once successful and admired father-husband given weight by Young’s controlled, understated performance.
Review by Steven West