‘The Abandoned’ Review: An Average Netflix Thriller With A Few Heartfelt Moments


Thrillers about detectives finding their own salvation through solving the crimes of other people have long ceased to be a novel concept. Is it mandatory to have a tragic past in order to catch a killer? Can’t they just be good at their job and adept at their own emotional management? The Abandoned is the story of a detective who is dealing with the grief of losing her fiancé to suicide. She feels guilty about not being there for him when he was dealing with depression; therefore, she has been unable to leave the car where the man committed suicide. The detective is assigned the murder case of an immigrant worker, and as she goes about solving it, she learns to address her own demons.

Coming to the actors, Ethan Juan is the clear show stealer as Lin You Sheng. His screen presence does most of the job for him. As for the rest of the story, it is dark and grim with a smooth flow. There are times when it is difficult to understand what is going on, and that is mostly because of the dialogues between characters that indicate that they are having a secret conversation that the audience is being excluded from. However, as we keep watching the movie, the story makes itself clearer and clearer.

A major flaw of The Abandoned is that it doesn’t give the audience the chance to understand the serial killer. Usually, in most thrillers, the investigation is designed in a way to understand how the killer thinks and the way the police understand and chase him. At the end of this film, we are given the killer’s motivations, but they are so muddled and haphazard that we end up feeling a little lost. The investigation is about catching the details, and that is based on understanding the killer. We did not get the latter, which is basically what a thriller is. The movie addresses the lives of immigrant workers who are forced to work in unsafe conditions because of a lack of choice. The discrimination they face is made apparent, and it is shown how they are exploited by the very people who complain the most about them. Therefore, who is the real villain in such a case?

Coming back to the killer (spoiler alert), he is shown to have lost his mind after being ‘betrayed’ by the person he loved the most. However, it would have been interesting to see how that feeling coincided with his hate for immigrants and how he picked his victims. There was some explanation missing here. I feel like the writer was under the impression that it was the detective’s grief that the audience was more invested in. Even before the movie started, we knew that she would get over that because that is how these stories go. Additionally, it would have been more exciting to see the killer make an appearance even before he was found out. To see him at once and not understand why he is the way he is was a letdown.

Basically, The Abandoned is a well-executed cliche, except for the lack of exploration of the mind of the serial killer. One of the more striking aspects of the film was the presentation of how employees’ mental health is addressed in the workplace. Wu Jie was going through a lot, and the people around her knew what was happening. She wasn’t in a position to quit her job, so she simply tried moving to a different department. However, because that did not suit the convenience of the department, she was forced to continue with the only thing told to her being to get over it. It is one thing to not be able to compromise on work, but it is a completely different matter to refuse empathy. Wu Jie highlights this in a later scene when she tells her chief that he was being a hypocrite because he knew what she was dealing with, yet his orders kept changing according to what suited him. Basically, he understood her, but he exercised that understanding for his own benefit and not hers. That is one of the most heartbreaking yet validating scenes. It is undeniable that in today’s world, we spend more of our lives in the workplace than around friends or family. This is what makes mental health in the workplace such a burning topic. To not just have it ignored but to have it manipulated for work is the kind of wound that is difficult to recover from. Luckily, in Wu Jie’s case, she found comfort in the sliver of validation.

Overall, the movie is not for thrill-seekers. It is a very average fare, with few moments to its credit. In most parts, the story is predictable. It could have benefited from Wu Jie’s colleague getting more of a personality. For the most part, Janine Chang and Ethan Juan carried the film on their shoulders. On the other hand, we can consider this movie to be a sort of palate cleanser. The world is inundated with Christmas and New Year movies around this time of the year. They are mostly based on romance, family, or the easy definition of self-love. Therefore, watching a few grisly murders centered around the New Year is refreshing. It makes us appreciate the sappy stuff a little more. That makes us think that this movie must be watched at the right time. Maybe don’t seek it out when you are craving distraction or an adrenaline rush. Watch it when you are getting tired of the ‘feel-good’ content around but don’t want to tax yourself with a heavy story. That makes us think that this may be a better watch for Valentine’s Day than New Year’s. At least, in terms of that, it is something original.

It would also help to have company while watching the film, because otherwise, you may find yourself distracted from the story unfolding on screen. In so many ways, the actors deserved a better script than what they got with The Abandoned. But it is what it is.

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Divya Malladi
Divya Malladi
Divya spends way more time on Netflix and regrets most of what she watches. Hence she has too many opinions that she tries to put to productive spin through her writings. Her New Year resolution is to know that her opinions are validated.

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