When Kath and her boyfriend arrive at a remote cabin in the redwoods, they find a mysterious younger couple already there. Her boyfriend disappears with the young woman, and Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation.

Chuck says:

Eli Horowitz’s “Gone in the Night” is the sort of film that once you’re through watching it you’re likely to say, “I can make a better movie than that!” You’d probably be right. An initially engaging thriller with a solid performance from Winona Ryder, it flies spectacularly off the rails with a third act that contains a climax so outlandish it has to be seen to be believed. Better yet, don’t bother. I’ve suffered through it, so you don’t have to.

Ryder is Kath, a solitary middle-aged woman involved with Max (John Gallagher Jr.), a much younger man not nearly as settled as she, still prone to impulsive immature acts and knee-jerk emotional responses. At his urging, they’ve taken an impromptu trip, a weekend away to a remote Air BnB. However, once they arrive at their destination, they find another couple staying there. Though similar in age, Al and Greta (Owen Teague and Brianne Tju) seem like an odd couple as well. While he’s put off by these circumstances, she invites Kath and Max in to stay the night, the misunderstanding to be sorted out in the morning.

However, things become even murkier after sunrise as Al informs Kath that their partners have run away with each other. Stunned, she returns home and tries to wrap he head around this turn of events. And while her friends tell her she’s better off, she still can’t shake the sense of unease this has caused. Seeking answers, she contacts Nicholas (Dermot Mulroney), the owner of the Air BnB. They meet, she relates her story, and while he says he can’t provide her with Greta’s contact information, a friendship develops between them that promises to develop into something more.

At this point, the script by Matthew Derby and Horowitz begins to employ a series of flashbacks that reveal Kath’s trip to the woods was far more than it seemed. Interspersed with scenes showing her and Nicholas growing closer, these glimpses into the past progressively reveal the truth behind the excursion, one that’s taken a tragic turn no one – and I mean, NO ONE – could anticipate.

At this point, I couldn’t help but think of the 1988 classic Dutch thriller “The Vanishing” which sports a similar premise as it concerns a young man seeking answers about his girlfriend’s disappearance.  Thoughtful and introspective, it focuses on obsessive behavior as well as the, at times, debilitating nature of grief. I was hoping Horowitz’s film would take a similar tact. How much more rewarding it would have been if Kath set out to find Max, never being able to get a straight answer as to his whereabouts, yet discovering more about herself as she tries? Or for she and Nicholas to share in the search, each of them finding a way to repair the harm in themselves on their journey?

See, I’m trying to write my own ending to this preposterous exercise. The premise is in place for a rewarding mystery and character study which makes how this movie play out even more frustrating. I often complain that what with all the movies I’ve seen, I’m rarely surprised. Giving credit where it’s due, this film DID surprise me, but not in the way I’d hoped. And while the final image is thoughtful and suggests a longing in Kath that’s never fully explored, its foundation is so ludicrous that it cannot be taken seriously. There are far too many moments such as this in “Gone,” ones that suggest what might have been if a more mature and level-headed approach been taken.

2 Stars

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