Missing has an interesting hook where it all takes place through the point of view of technology via laptops, phones, security cameras and more. However, that central conceit may be slightly less original as this is a follow-up to Searching that used the same stylistic tricks. However, the view from technology is engrossing and the mystery delivers lots and lots of twits. Probably too many, especially as by the end it has hit about the third fake-out ending. But it certainly keeps one guessing and has enough cool visuals from a technological POV that makes it stand out.
Teenager June (Storm Reid) is excited to have the house to herself with her mom, Grace (Nina Long), on a vacation with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). Life hasn’t exactly been easy ever since her dad, James (Tim Griffin), passed away and she is often distant from her mother. But, after a week of partying, she goes to pick up Grace and Kevin from the airport, however they never arrive. She calls up the hotel in South America and is shocked to hear they left without their bags. June gets in touch with a local, Javier (Joaquim de Almeida), who tries to help June track down her mom but to no avail. Confiding with her friend, Veena (Megan Suri), her mom’s lawyer friend, Heather (Amy Landecker), and FBI agent Park (Daniel Henney), June digs deeper on Kevin’s history and finds he may be not who he seemed to be. And, even worse, her mom may have been hiding secrets from her own daughter.
The stylistic idea central to Searching and Missing is that it’s set entirely from the point of view of a laptop screen with lots of video conference chatting and email clicking. There are click clack and ping noises as each program boots up and Facetime calls commence. There’s information happening at both times on screen, like when June is talking to Heather she is also clicking down boxes while messaging her buddy Veena to score booze. Even in a serious movie there’s still little room for funny computer observations. When June is talking to her mother over a video conference her mother tells her to write it all down so June just boots up a notepad program and randomly types characters. There’s a bit when June logs into a website and must do the “pick all the boxes in the photo” option of a car and the cursor hovers hesitantly over the bumper until successfully clicking. When June calls up the Columbian hotel she runs what the guy is saying through google translate and sort of figures out what’s going on. The movie is actually very Google-centric with lots of logging in and logging out of various apps, profiles and web-searching, so either they asked Google very nicely or Google paid for the free advertising.
There are moments when the screentime point of view can be oddly emotional. With at times stirring music cues from Julian Scherle a cursor hovering for a moment before deleting files can convey emotional sadness. When June gets into her mom’s dating profile, she goes through conversations her mom had with Kevin and the music conveys the emotional scope of their relationship. There are multiple twists throughout the film that can get a bit exhausting. However, the ultimate answer is appropriately satisfying, if random.
Reid is in basically every scene even though she’s confined almost entirely to little video chat boxes. She gets to run through different emotions; snarky teenage sass, freaking out or numb. Javi, the Columbian driver June enlists for help, is fun. Which is more striking since de Almeida has a long list of playing nasty guys but here he’s downright dopey yet likable. His courier is extremely chatty but apparently not too swift as when June is looking up a cheap by the hour courier one of the notes on the side says “My tacos took two hours to show up but a very nice guy”.
Griffin as the dad has some surprising reveals as the movie shows more of the father’s old footage. Veena is the steadfast best friend who is there for a few quips and to also throw some exposition at June, with things getting testy when Veena questions the validity of June’s mother. Heather and Park are other exposition characters, Landecker as the lawyer Heather says legal things seriously as does Henney as the Fed. Grace has some fun “mom” moments where she keeps making mistakes using Siri, and Long shows she cares about her disinterested teenage daughter. Leung as Kevin gets to be interestingly ambiguous. A lot of his characterization is conveyed by June digging through his emails as his terse correspondence is a direct contrast from the nice guy in video clips.
Missing is a distinct way to present a thriller story, even if seeing everything through a computer screen novelty has worn off a bit since Searching. There is an intricate layer of lies upon lies here and the unique way it is presented makes scrolling and clicking on mystery accounts surprisingly dramatic. Digital screens can often be cold and sterile which works appropriately for a thriller.
Directors: Will Merrick and Nick Johnson
Starring: Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney and Nia Long