Zakaria, a 21-year-old student of English literature in war-torn Damascus, struggles to survive in the midst of a devastating economic situation. He battles each day just to keep his spirits up, but his mind is consumed by the horrors of the war and the uncertainty of his future. When his father, a prominent journalist named Youssef, is suddenly arrested by the secret police, Zakaria's world is turned upside down. Desperate to discover his father's fate, Zakaria embarks on a dangerous journey that introduces him to a corrupt network of individuals who can help him secure his father's release. Along the way, he meets a taxi driver who offers his assistance, but at a steep price. Zakaria decides to sell his kidney to pay for the deal, but wakes up from the surgery to learn that he has no kidneys! The doctor explains to him that he is in fact completely empty from the inside out. Zakaria is left alone with his fate. The thought that he too could be arrested torments him and he gradually sinks into his fear and loneliness.
"The Heaviness of Absence" is a psychodrama that seeks alternative approaches to the subject of the Syrian war--in particular, the phenomenon of missing people. Since the beginning of the war in 2011, more than 150 thousand people have disappeared, most likely arrested by the secret police and other war parties. Their families don't know about their destinies, if they are alive or not.
The film tells the story of one of those absent people, through his son, Zakaria, whose world is turned upside down when his father disappears.