One of the common tropes in fiction is the “lost girl,” where a young woman goes missing and the majority of the film or series is spent trying to find out what happened. This can make for suspenseful viewing, but it also forces the female character to be more of a plot device than a person. In After Her, a new sci-fi short film on Dust from Aly Migliori, Stranger Things’ Natalia Dyer isn’t just another lost girl. She’s something...different.
After Her stars Dyer as a teenager named Hailey who goes missing after a trip into the woods with her friend Callum, played by Christopher Dylan White (The Miseducation of Cameron Post). During their excursion, Hailey came across a mysterious object—something she seemed to actively be searching for. Afterward, she disappeared without a trace.
Several years later, Callum discovers that Hailey may be alive and goes back to the woods to search for her. What happens, well, I don’t want to spoil it. But let’s just say things get interesting. In a statement, writer-director Migliori said she wanted to unpack and subvert the typical “missing girl story”—especially with Callum’s journey, which conveys female power and autonomy through visual effects the filmmaker designed herself:
I was interested in making a short that confronts the perversion of the “missing girl story,” in both film and in reality. I wanted to create something meditative and personal with a small group of collaborators; I shot most of the film myself, including the VFX, which were hand-done in my parents’ basement.
I’m from Rhode Island and grew up reading Lovecraft, and was incredibly inspired by his worlds, his characters, and their maddening search for the bigger picture, the great answers. As Callum searches for Hailey, the alluring missing girl of his past, his expectations get challenged. His journey spans fertile woods, deep caves, and fallopian tunnels. He grows to realize that he is a passenger, not a pioneer, while she is the leader, not the victim.
It does seem ironic that Dyer is starring in something about a missing girl, given how the first season of Stranger Things (which is back on Netflix July 4) centered around the search for Will. But it also serves as a painful reminder that, even though Stranger Things did save Will, it still has its own lost girl who will never be recovered. Justice for Barb.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.