A young college student is haunted by memories of her boyfriend, who disappeared two years ago.
Katie (Katie Holmes) is a hard-working college student eager to complete her thesis. Her gregarious boyfriend Embry (Charlie Hunnam) disappeared without a trace two years earlier, and police detective Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt) has started investigating the case again. Katie is plagued by memories of Embry, and her flashbacks, triggered by familiar settings such as the choir room where they met or the ice rink where they had their first date, illustrate the type of relationship they had. Clearly, Katie was in awe of Embry and placed him on a pedestal, while Embry was less enamoured with her prim demeanor. But Katie's problems don't end with Embry's haunting. She also has a fear of abandonment because her father left her when she was just an infant. With all this mental anguish, it's no wonder the poor girl can't get a decent nights' sleep. When the therapist she's been seeing makes a pass at her, a troubled Katie finds herself turning to Wade for solace and opening up a whole new can of worms. Wade soon finds his fuzzy feelings for Katie are clouding his judgement in the case, and he's forced to choose between her, the case and even his career.
Holmes, who starred in the 2000 dramatic thriller The Gift, is known to most as the sweet and wholesome Joey Potter from the WB's Dawson's Creek. Here, her character Katie is an edgy academic with some heavy-duty issues that make her a bit of a tortured soul. Holmes, however, lacks the range to transform her character into much more than a troubled college student, which makes it difficult to accept her sinister metamorphosis. Katie's neediness makes her attraction to Wade understandable in theory, since he seems like he has it together, but it doesn't translate to chemistry on the screen. While Bratt (TV's Law & Order, Pinero) does give Wade a lost-dog feel, the character is too underdeveloped; apart from the fact that he is a recovering alcoholic, we never get to see what's underneath the surface. The third player in the dysfunctional love triangle is the missing boyfriend Embry, played by Hunnam (Fox's short-lived college series Undeclared). Embry's character--brought to life in fashbacks--is one of the most intriguing ones in the film. Hunnam fits the role of the rich and rebellious student perfectly; it's too bad he wasn't the main focus of the film.
Scribe Stephen Gaghan, who won a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his Traffic screenplay, makes his directorial debut with Abandon. Although Gaghan's story is intriguing in its early stages, it quickly becomes predictable and chances are you'll have it figured out by the halfway mark. The story's biggest problem is that it never masters the art of trickery, but instead uses blatantly deceitful tactics and false alarms to lead the audience to the wrong conclusions. It's a cheap and instant way to create a twist in an otherwise uncomplicated story. The film has some good moments though, including the depiction of college life and first job interview jitters, but the story falls flat when the characters show their true colors. In fact, once you've figured it out, it becomes outright funny. With McGill University as the primary setting, the film was shot entirely in Montreal, Canada--so there are plenty of creepy tunnel scenes. But neither that nor the film's hair-raising score--complete with eerie lullaby vocals--makes this film remotely scary.
Had the evil twists been left out of the story, Abandon would probably have made a good dramatic movie. As a thriller, however, it falls flat.