DVD Review - Gone: The Disappearance of Aeryn Gillern

Aeryn Gillern - Missing Since Oct. '07
Kathy Gilleran is a former police officer from New York who talks about her life in the days and eventual years since her adult son, Aeryn Gillern, disappeared in October 2007. Kathy's voice is the only voice we hear. Her face is the only speaker we see. This is solely from her point-of-view. It's a heartbreaking and frustrating story. As a mother yearning to know what happened to her son, you can't help but sympathize with her. As Kathy lays out her story chronologically, starting with the call she got about her son on Halloween  2007, we get a compelling mystery.

It's like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, but only more difficult because it takes place overseas. Aeryn worked with an office of the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. He went missing after visiting a gay men's club at night in the downtown area. Being an American in a foreign country is hard enough, but being an American and gay in a foreign country is doubly difficult. Kathy faces that double difficulty. The picture that Kathy paints is a police force in Austria that is either incompetent or highly homophobic in its corruption.

There are tons of cold cases in the United States or investigations that lead to dead ends, but if ever there were shady police practices or simply lackthereof, someone like Kathy has legal channels she could pursue to address grievances, but, in a foreign land, an American is at a loss. Organizations like the U.N. and the State Department were not interested or incapable of pursuing anything further or pushing the Austrian police.

Kathy doesn't seem to have access to a lot of money, so launching a private investigation is out of her reach. The filmmakers don't seem to have access to a lot of money either, so beyond giving Kathy an outlet to speak about her son and his disappearance, they add nothing. The filmmakers probably heard about Kathy after she went to the press in 2008. Documentaries don't have to conform to journalism or news reporting standards, but a journalist or news reporter faced with a story like this might go to Vienna and try to talk to officials or people on the street or people connected to the gay men's club where Aeryn was last seen, but the filmmakers here don't.

This is not to impugn the filmmakers because ultimately that doesn't matter because as Kathy states, the truth about what happened to Aeryn will probably never be known. It perhaps could be known, but it would take wealthy and powerful resources that she doesn't have, resources that could dredge an entire river. The documentary instead stands as a testament of a mother's love, fortitude and perseverance. It also stands as a testament to the homophobia in Austria, but it's limited. I don't want to cast aspersions on Austria, but the filmmakers only let us experience it the way Kathy experiences it. It's great first person storytelling.

Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but Recommended 14 and Up.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 25 mins.


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