The Vanishing of Sidney Hall (2017)
R | 1h 59min | Drama, Mystery | 2 March 2018 (USA)
Synopsis: After publishing a bestselling novel based on the death of one of his high school classmates, the controversial writer Sidney Hall (Logan Lerman) finds himself catapulted to unexpected fame and renown. His relationship with his girlfriend (Elle Fanning) begins to fall apart as the dark consequences of the book intrude on their life together, and he disappears without a trace. Nearly a decade later, an enigmatic detective searches for the missing author, whose books are connected to a string of mysterious arsons.
Review: What could have been a run of the mill, angst filled, coming of age drama THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL makes enough smart decisions to elevate it to a well crafted mystery. It is told in layered timelines – which normally bothers me – both weaving an intriguing story line all its own. Sidney (Logan Lerman) is likable from the start which helps graft the viewer to the back and forth plot lines.
Most of us fantasize about writing that best selling novel. Of developing narrative and creating characters that live forever in text. Sidney does that and (for better or worse) is catapulted to literary stardom. But his purist nature makes it hard to simulate into the world of famous authors. His book reaches people in different ways, some quite tragically. The film touches on the writer as well as the responsibility of the reader; but with subtlety on all bases. When Sidney is young he wants to write a book that will shake people up. Little does he know what that means.
As mentioned there are two storylines taking place. Pre and post vanishing. In the pre we get the young Sydney Dealing with bullies, shy girls, and his own untapped talent. In the post we get a view of Sydney through the eyes of teachers, mentors, and those who were touched by his greatness. I appreciated the depth and layers that writer/director Shawn Christensen gives us. This is a powerful tale but one that is organic and void of pretense and manipulation. You are never quite sure what turn it is going to take. The ride is not a white knuckle, buckle up journey and neither is it lumbering drudgery.
Lerman is fantastic in the role and supported by Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, Nathan Lane, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. This cast fit in the characters seamlessly. No one comes across as awkward or, well, like actors. In a story like this that is important. It helps the vibe. A24 is a studio that has given us grand films and this is another in their memorable offerings.
THE VANISHING OF SIDNEY HALL is rated R for language and some sexual references. As Duane (Abdul-Mateen) says in the film regarding Hall, “You start out as a fan and then work hard to be his friend.” That is true for most of the 120 minutes of this film. I give it 4 out of 5 FlyLeafs. What I thought was going to be just an above board young adult film surprised me on several levels.