The Movie Waffler New Release Review - MISSING | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - MISSING

Missing review
A teenager uses the internet to investigate her mother's disappearance.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Will Merrick, Nick Johnson

Starring: Storm Reid, Joaquim de Almeida, Ken Leung, Joaquim de Almeida, Nia Long, Amy Landecker, Daniel Henney

Missing poster

Missing comes from writer/directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, who served as editors on the 2018 thriller Searching (whose co-writers Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty receive a "story by" credit here). Like that movie it plays out on the screens of various devices accessed by the protagonist, and just like Searching it opens with the tragic death of a spouse and parent before quickly evolving into a missing person mystery.

Whereas Searching saw a father utilise various online tools to uncover the whereabouts of his disappeared daughter, here it's a teenage girl frantically searching for a missing parent.

Missing review

18-year-old June (Storm Reid) is left alone for the weekend while her mother Grace (Nia Long) is whisked away for a romantic weekend in Cartagena, Colombia by her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leaung). June is feeling down because it happens to be the weekend of Father's Day, and we see her watch a home video clip of her family's last holiday together before some ominous bleeding from her father's nose cuts the footage, and seemingly his life, short.

Following a rowdy party, a hungover June heads to the airport to pick up her mom and her beau, but neither of them disembark their flight. Struggling to communicate with a Spanish speaking hotel worker, June enlists the aid of Javier (Joaquim de Almeida), a Colombian freelance odd job man, to help her snoop around Cartagena from her desktop, communicating with Javier via Whatsapp.

Just as John Cho's anxious father did in Searching, June breaks into her mother's various online accounts, along with those of Kevin, and in the process discovers how disconnected she really is from her life. Various clues and red herrings are uncovered, and more than a few twists are unveiled as the mystery unravels.

Missing review

Missing boasts some clever storytelling, but also requires the viewer not to ask inconvenient questions at several points. It's equally gripping and frustrating. The film finds a neat way of removing police involvement through having their hands tied by June uncovering evidence and clues that they can't act upon because she acquired them through an invasion of privacy. It employs a host of technological developments that have become mainstream in the few short years since Searching, including doorbell cameras and smart watches. But it also features incidents that are never explained because to do so would tie the plot up in knots the writers can't unravel. While it's engaging in the moment, you'll likely find yourself breaking down the plot post-viewing and asking some inconvenient questions.

With its young protagonist, Missing skews more towards a Gen-Z audience than its predecessor. Part of what made Searching so novel was how its amateur sleuth was a forty-something unfamiliar with much of the technology that played a role in his daughter's daily life. This lead to a combination of comedy and frustration, two elements largely absent from the more online savvy June's sleuthing.

Missing review

The expansion of technology between the two movies also makes Missing less interesting as a formal exercise. Unlike the Unfriended movies (arguably the pinnacle of these "screenlife" thrillers), which played their narratives out in real time while sticking rigidly to replicating a desktop on screen, both Searching and Missing play out over several days and add various clips such as news reports into the mix. It feels a little like cheating, and it doesn't help that the recreations of real life news shows are so unconvincing they resemble SNL sketches. Like Searching, Missing sees its omniscient camera zoom into specific details on screen, which often results in chopping up camera footage into the sort of combinations of close-ups and wide shots you might find in a more formally conventional piece of filmmaking. This is particularly the case in the climax, which for all intents and purposes drops the screenlife format through its editing of an unlikely variety of CCTV cameras at a certain location. When June dons a smart watch equipped with a camera and heads off to a rendezvous with a suspect, we might as well be watching a run of the mill found footage thriller.

The best screenlife thrillers are fuelled primarily by their clever adoption of technology, and they get under our skin because they present us with a façade that we've become accustomed to staring at in our daily lives. Missing might be the first of these movies in which the characters are more interesting than the mystery. That's credit to the performances of Reid and de Almeida, who make for a sympathetic pair of unlikely damaged detectives. But there's a sense that the technology has gotten out of hand at this point, and the sub-genre would be wise to return to its more limited roots and stick to the screen as it were.

 is in UK/ROI cinemas from April 21st.

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