Lillian White, a teenager in an American small town, has fallen in love with Brad Lee, a boy a year older, that she didn’t care much for initially. In his younger years, Brad was hanging out with the wrong crowd, but once he found Lillian things changed. On the night Brad graduates from high school, he pronounces his love for Lillian and she reciprocates. However, what looks like a beautiful young love blooming, suddenly becomes a nightmare when Brad turns up missing the next day.
As it turns out, the police are not too concerned with an 18 year old boy who doesn’t return home, especially one with a juvenile criminal record – something Lillian was unaware of before a detective shared the information. As the days go by with no word from Brad, Lillian becomes frantic and joins in the search that involves the whole town. In Lillian’s mind, the number one suspect in Brad’s disappearance is his old troublemaker friend known as Lizard. When questioned by Lillian, Lizard claims he doesn’t know what happened to Brad, and maintains his story when questioned by the police.
Months pass and Lillian’s fixation with finding Brad puts a strain on her relationship with her best friend, Anna, and threatens to disrupt her faith in God who seems to be ignoring her prayers. Eventually, after several months of unresolved emotions, Lillian makes a decision to let go of Brad and simply treasure the time they had together. A mysterious stranger in town, a teenage boy named Chris, has befriended her and helps her see beyond her grief. Her friend Anna also convinces her life must go on.
This story concludes with a complete explanation of the circumstances around Brad’s disappearance and I’m going to leave those details a mystery in this review. This is really a story about the choices people make and what are the convoluted reasons for those choices. In the end, Lillian comes to grips with all that’s transpired and moves on with her life with a renewed understanding of life and how unpredictable it can be.
If You’re Gone is a compelling mystery, that moves through a broad range of emotions. The small town setting tends to magnify the personal stories in a way that draws the viewer deeper into the story. As the characters work through their reaction to Brad’s disappearance, it’s hard not to look inside yourself and consider how you might respond. While this story centers on a teenage romance, the impact of these events takes a toll on mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. All of these relationships are dealt with in this story, generating a complex web of pain, sorrow, and hope. Throughout this ordeal, faith is the thread that holds the participants together and helps them keep going.