Missing William

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Missing William Movie Poster Image
Meditation on tragic violence, grief is heavy and complex.
  • PG
  • 2011
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Missing William offers positive messages about friendship, loyalty, taking care of someone in times of need, and the importance of grieving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most adults are shown as well-meaning, responsible, supportive characters. Unseen or rarely seen characters, often in flashback, are adults who are abusive or absent. There are a few rough bar characters in minor scenes who have a big impact on the plot, but overall most characters aim to live their lives honestly and with integrity.


A man is punched in the face and spins around and hits his head on the hitch of a truck in a serious blow. A man sexually threatens a woman when he grabs her behind. A man punches another man in the face. A teen overhears a mother and father shouting angrily, and a recurring plot involves past references to a family escaping an abusive father. A minor scene of bullying involves teenagers mocking a boy for a hearing aid.


A bar scene involves a man grabbing a woman's behind and telling her she has a "great ass." A woman tells a man, as she enters a bedroom, that he should come "work off" the food he just ate, and the next scene cuts to them in bed, him shirtless, with intercourse implied. A man and woman kiss a few times. Another couple kisses briefly. A boy and girl kiss briefly.


Minor profanity, such as "dips--t," "hell," "bulls--ting," "ass," and referring to a woman negatively as a "broad."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Casual and serious drinking throughout. A man, visibly drunk, grabs a woman's behind and becomes aggressive, leading to a fight, and there's additional violence later outside. Four guys drink beers at a bar, and one says he's "gonna get hammered." A woman sips on wine at an art gallery. Friends drink beers at a bar. A man and woman drink wine straight from a bottle.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Missing William deals with tragic violence and has escapist and casual drinking, mild profanity (including "s--t"), some implied intercourse, and issues concerning loss and grief, such as caring for a seriously injured partner. There's some backstory related to an abusive father and a fleeing family. Overall, it's a meditation on love, friendship, and grieving, but the heavy themes and bleak subject matter make it better for older kids and adults.

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What's the story?

Abby (Courtney Ford) and James (Brandon Routh) were lifelong friends, until James mysteriously disappeared. Now he's back, just as Abby is preparing to marry William (Reid Scott). Soon, a tragic injury leaves William disabled and dependent on Abby, and James helps Abby sort through her feelings. Can he help Abby and William get back to normal, and can Abby ever return to her old life as long as William is dependent on her?

Is it any good?

MISSING WILLIAM is part love story, part grief story, and as such it never lands solidly on either front. There is some beautiful cinematography from experienced actors who make the most of their parts (and, interestingly, James and Abby are married in real life).There are some unexpected twists and surprising choices, and the film is to be commended for playing high drama more low-key than it has to. That said, it tends to sentimentalize every moment, and parents should be cautioned against the heavy themes here with the tragic violence, past abuse, casual and escapist drinking, and overall somber, meditative tone; there are no happy endings. It's best for older kids who appreciate complex resolutions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ending. Were you surprised by it? Why, or why not? Do you think the ending is possible in real life? Why, or why not?

  • People often deal with grief in their own way. What are some different ways people grieve? Have you ever lost someone close to you? How did you grieve?

  • How does drinking affect the events in the film? 

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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