The Disappearance of Finbar” goes from working-class realism and teen angst in suburban Dublin through moments of wry humor in Stockholm to frozen Lapland, where it clicks into Aki Kaurismaki-inspired whimsy, replete with tango scenes and drunken Finns. A fairy tale about escape from grim reality to the magical fringes of the modern world, Brit filmmaker Sue Clayton’s muddled feature bow is full of intriguing ideas and incidental charms that fail to come together into a cohesive whole, making it unlikely to pass muster theatrically.
Burdened by the disappointment he represents to his overbearing father, his teachers and his peers, troubled Irish teen Finbar (Jonathan Rhys-Myers) jumps off a freeway overpass one night and vanishes without trace. Three years go by during which his family goes to pieces and his friend Danny (Luke Griffin) struggles to forget his loss and get on with his life. But a sensationalist pop song romanticizing the lost lad’s tragic tale becomes a Eurowide hit, prompting a drunken phone call to Danny from Finbar in Scandinavia.
Danny tracks him to Stockholm and from there to the northernmost tip of Finland, which the deadpan locals inform him is the birthplace of the tango. Taken in by arctic maiden Abbi (Fanny Risberg), Danny begins to settle into the bizarre rhythms of the place and carve out the life for himself that was robbed by his friend’s dramatic gesture. But when Finbar shows up, it becomes clear that one of them will have to go home.
The script by Clayton and Dermot Bolger, from Carl Lombard’s novel “The Disappearance of Rory Brophy,” moves in far too many directions without ever arriving anyplace, bringing no fluidity to its many sudden transitions. The comedy surfaces late, after a deceptively somber opening, and suffers from tonal inconsistency when it does show. Much of the snowbound second half is enjoyable, but it feels contrived in its surreal quirkiness and has little relation to what’s come before.
Both Griffin and Rhys-Myers are fine, though the latter’s character is too thinly established in the early reels to produce a sense of loss when he disappears. Technically, the film is tidy if undistinguished, with a lift coming from Davy Spillane’s music, in particular the mock-earnest pop ballad mourning Finbar.