Went to Metrograph to catch a screening of The Image You Missed, a personal cinematic essay in which director Donal Foreman combs through footage captured by his estranged father, filmmaker Arthur MacCaig, desperately searching for some vague impression of a man he barely knew. As he confronts the ghosts of his past, the portrait that emerges is far from flattering.
MacCaig was singularly obsessed with the Northern Irish Troubles, and spent more time shooting documentaries (including The Patriot Game) on the streets of Belfast than he did visiting his son in Dublin; while cleaning out his apartment following his death, Foreman finds only one photograph of his mother, and none of himself. Sadly, our narrator seems to reach the conclusion that this neglect was totally in vain, as his father’s view of the conflict was that of an outsider, and thus fundamentally flawed, inaccurate, and incomplete; he glorified and romanticized the IRA while dutifully ignoring its less savory aspects, such as its rampant infighting. Nevertheless, Foreman ultimately admits to admiring (albeit begrudgingly) MacCaig’s passion for politics and revolution, which lent his work a powerful authorial voice; his own attitudes are comparatively moderate, making his creative endeavors significantly less impactful (in his opinion, anyway).
Immaculately-structured and emotionally-charged, The Image You Missed elegantly demonstrates that nonfiction movies are capable of telling stories that are every bit as captivating and compelling as scripted dramas.