June (Storm Reid) is an everyday teenage girl, sat behind a computer with her face in social media. The tragic passing of her father years earlier led to a rift between her and her mother Grace (Nia Long). While Grace attempts to reconcile, June pushes away at every turn.
As Grace embarks on a much needed romantic Columbian getaway with new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), June plans to throw house parties and drink to excess with friends. But when it comes time to pick up her mother from the airport June is left dumbfounded by her absence.
A desperate phone call to their Colombian hotel reveals Grace and Kevin have disappeared without a trace. With the authorities bogged down in international red tape, June does what she can with the technology at her fingertips. Browsing emails, social media posts, instant messages whatever may help her locate her missing mother. Becoming a ‘cyber Sherlock Holmes’, she delves into a web of lies and deceit in this inventive techno mystery thriller.
Missing acts as a follow up to the similar 2018 surprise hit Searching, both films sharing many of the same creative leads. The high concept being that the narrative of these films are told through the lens of various forms of technology. We watch the story though the protagonist’s desktop with webcams and other similar means capturing the action.
I absolutely loved Searching, however I was afraid Missing would just be using those same novel gimmicks. In many ways it follows the same style but Missing brings a lot more to the table this time around. Rather than an enjoyable but fairly simple and predictable at times mystery, we’re treated to a much more complex story with many more twists and turns.
Several lessons have been learned by directors Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick who worked as directors of virtual cinematography on Searching. I see this as much the same way action movie fight choreographers do amazing work when placed in the director’s chair.
The editing of Missing keeps our attention throughout with the perspective rarely being just a static capture of June’s laptop screen. Much more than I remember in Searching the frenetic energy of the film’s pacing rarely lets up. The frame darting around to whatever focal point is relevant while tension builds.
The pumping score by Julian Scherle works amazingly well also. With this surprisingly being one of their first high profile feature films. The mystery of the film at times had me on the edge of my seat as effectively as any Jason Bourne movie.
A basic amount of technical knowledge on the various digital platforms utilised here is beneficial to fully appreciate Missing. While I think the finer details would fly over my parents’ heads, the authenticity of the film drew me in even more. These are largely existing websites or apps June is using here. Many of us know what a colossal pain in the ass it can be to try to recover a lost Gmail or Facebook password. So, when pieces of the puzzle fall into place there’s an almost audible “Aha!” from the audience.
I feel this sometimes unfortunately leads to disconnects between the realism of the film’s tech and the traditional theatricality of the performance. This doesn’t sour the experience however, as Reid does a magnificent job as the angsty June. We see her grow as a character from her journey in better understanding her mother and her regret over their divide.
I’m also really happy to see Joaquim de Almeida used well in this film. As an Airtasker odd jobs man named Javi, he acts as June’s ‘feet on the ground’ in Colombia. Almeida is an actor I’ve always liked and while he is typecast as drug lords or gangsters a lot, I’m thrilled to see him here in a role which utilises his natural charisma in a positive character.
Personally, I cannot wait for the home entertainment release to pause through the movie and read all those background texts and news articles! Missing revitalises what very well could have been a ‘been there, done that’ concept. With its stylish editing and compelling story, I found it even more exciting than its predecessor. Missing is well-worth seeing in cinemas.