- Written and directed by Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick
- Starring Nia Long, Tim Griffin and Storm Reid
- Classification PG; 111 minutes
- Opens in theatres Jan. 20
Over and over, we see the media try to fit the realities of our digital worlds onto screens in ways that don’t work. Some of the worst scenes in modern film and television feature characters having a conversation over text. At worst, scrolling messages over a screen are distracting; at best, they are tolerable.
Which means setting an entire feature film entirely on the various screens that take over our lives is a gamble – making Missing’s entire concept a huge risk.
Missing is essentially a standalone sequel to 2018′s Searching, a well-received film where a father has to find his missing daughter and which the audience experiences through his Google searches and video calls. Could effectively the exact same concept work again? Somehow, yes. Missing is a delightful surprise.
Made by first-time directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick (and produced by the writer and directors of Searching) Missing follows rebellious teen June Allen (Storm Reid) as her mother, Grace (Nia Long), goes missing while on holiday in Colombia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). When June is set to pick them up from the airport and they don’t arrive, her worst suspicions are confirmed: her mother has gone missing in a foreign country and Kevin may not be who he says he is. Actually, a lot of people in June’s life may not be who they say they are, and it becomes clear that only June can figure out what is really going on with her mother’s sudden disappearance.
The film propels itself through various video calls, social media posts, YouTube videos and text messages. Basically, what most of us spend all of our days doing while not solving the mysteries surrounding our mother’s disappearance. What makes this compelling to watch is that the central mystery is tight enough to keep viewers on the edge of their seats with twists and turns that play out online as the case goes increasingly viral in true crime circles. We watch as a frustrated June, in a compelling performance by Reid, uses her Gen Z internet sleuthing skills while authorities tell her to wait patiently. Missing does a great job at making the audience feel as if they’re June’s companions; you almost wish you could suggest a different search to her.
Yes, there are many ways where Missing’s grasp of how our digital lives work are almost too convenient for the sake of the film. We get to see June react as she scrolls through e-mails because her FaceTime desktop app is constantly open. And sometimes, June’s much too lucky when it comes to figuring out passwords, and suspects are a bit stupid when it comes to their online security (please let this be a warning to get two-factor authentication for all your accounts). Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because by the time you begin questioning some of these actions June’s already moved on to searching for more clues.
I typically don’t want to be reminded of the internet and how much time I spend staring at a screen when I’m watching a film or doing anything leisurely. Fortunately, Missing packs in enough mystery and intrigue that the film never feels boring. It ends up working as good, light and thrilling entertainment.
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