Matthew (Ryan Reynolds) is a loving husband and father who struggles to pay the bills since his business failed. He’s the one to pick 9 year old daughter Cass up from figure skating practice while wife Tina (Mireille Enos) cleans hotel rooms in Niagara Falls. One evening, he pops into the pie store off the highway for just a moment, but in the time it takes to pay for a cherry rhubarb, his daughter has disappeared from the backseat of his truck.
You and I have the privilege and the horror of knowing that she’s been snatched by sexual predator Mika (Kevin Durand), whom you’ll immediately be able to identify by his pedo mustache. But the police, including Jeffrey Cornwall (Scott Speedman), a detective newly appointed to the Child Exploitation Unit, and his boss Nicole Dunlop (Rosario Dawson), suspect Matthew to be involved. Though they never have evidence to arrest him, over the next 8 years, the strain and taint of suspicion eventually crumbles Matthew and Tina’s marriage.
Matthew resolves to find Cass on his own, which mostly involves driving slowly by every single teenage girl he comes across, while Tina is still in touch with the Child Exploitation Unit, who’ve been coming the dark web obsessively, Jeffrey posing as a fellow pedophile and trying to ease his way into a sex trafficking ring. After 8 years, he’s found an image that he suspects might be Cass, and indeed we know that even as a 17 year old no longer of any interest to pedophiles, she’s still be held and used as a friendly face to lure other unsuspecting children into the vans of predators. But since no one knows where Cass is being held, including Cass herself, a rescue mission is impossible. And as the days tick by, both Matthew and Jeffrey are losing touch with reality.
Director Atom Egoyan crafts a film that is deeply unpleasant to watch, while Reynolds’ performance adds up to heartbreak. However, the film remains difficult for other reasons, Egoyan’s murky jumps in time seemingly purposely obfuscating reality. Egoyan often plays around with time and memory, but the result is usually haunting rather than confusing. The twists and turns feel cheap and tricky and even though the outcome to root for seems painfully obvious, it also feels undeserved. Each frame taken individually is ridiculously and meticulously perfect in its composition but their combined effort is unconvincing and unsatisfying. As Dunlop says herself: “there are no happy endings in my line of work.”