At worst, Missing vindicates a great storytelling gimmick brought to us in 2018. Searching was a fascinating, modern way to tell a mystery story, using all the technology and digital sleuthing available at anyone’s fingertips. Missing proves the gimmick works if the story is clever enough, and you have a strong emotional core to hold onto like Searching did.
Instead of a father daughter story, we have a mother daughter one in Missing. June (Storm Reid) is your stereotypical 18 year old teenage daughter to single mom Grace (Nia Long), eyerolling and liking “I love you” texts instead of texting it back. Grace is about to leave for Colombia with her new boyfrieand Kevin (Ken Leung), which hits June hard because she still misses her dad (Tim Griffin) who died of cancer when she was a young girl. After a weekend of partying with her mom away, June reluctantly goes to pick Grace and Kevin up at the airport. Except neither of them is on the return flight home.
Missing works just like Searching did by getting into the details of a novice trying to solve a mystery. June quickly learns that the government isn’t going to help her find her mother quickly, so she takes matters into her own hands by using what information she has available through a laptop computer. How can the money poor June get in person hotel footage from where her mom was staying: hire a taskrabbit like person (Joaquim de Almeida) to do it for her! Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, the director/screenwriters, do a solid job of keeping the movie tense and exciting when a lot of the detective work is simply to break into someone’s gmail account. Despite some stretching of reality at various moments, the movie always finds a way to pull back and ground the story into a tale of an 18 year old trying to find their mom with all the apps she can muster, even finding some character development between a mom and daughter when the mom has disappeared for weeks.
But the key to Missing’s success is getting enough twists, turns, red herrings, and dead ends in there to keep the audience guessing. The problem gets harder for creative team Johnson and Merrick, because they have a relatively tiny cast for a giant scoped multi country mystery, meaning the audience is going to laser in on a few people right away. Even though there’s no Earth shattering all timer of a movie twist, the writers at least layer in levels to the reveal, so even though for example there was an obvious part of a third act twist I saw coming, there was another part of it that certainly caught me by surprise. Constant reveals of new info certainly give the movie a bit of a breathtaking pace at times, which the filmmakers usually climax with a big paired reveal, that leads to either a dead end or a quiet rebuilding of the momentum to keep the story from becoming redundant. Missing also has the sneaky great Storm Reid holding it together, really giving her all for a movie a lot of people might have phoned in.
Let’s keep the Google search mystery movie going all! Find a cool story, a strong relationship in the middle, and a bunch of clever app uses and plot twists galore. Searching. Missing. Do we go dark for the third…Killing? Or sexy….Slaying? Relentlessly bleak…Dying? Or my personal favorite…Sashaying, about a drag queen having to piece together a performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race.