Single mother Grace Allen (Nia Long) goes on a week-long vacation to Colombia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). In doing so, she leaves her 18 year-old daughter, June (Storm Reid), alone at the house. She tells June to be responsible. She tells June to only use the emergency cash in case of emergencies. She tells June not to throw any wild parties. She tells June to clear out her voice mail so Grace can actually leave a message. As soon as Grace leaves, June starts spending the emergency money on beer and parties and she also fails to clear out her voice mail.
It’s hard to blame June, however. She’s 18 and she’s rebellious and it doesn’t help that her mother is extremely overprotective. June feels that there is something off about Kevin and his awkward attempts to talk to her do nothing to make her like him. June spends most of her time wishing that she could have spent more time with her father, James (Tim Griffin), a man who she can barely even remember.
At the end of the week, June drives out to the airport. She makes a sign that reads, “Welcome back from prison,” and she stands in the airport, waiting to see her mom and Kevin. However, neither one of them shows up. The plane has landed. The passengers have disembarked. But Grace and Kevin are nowhere to be seen. June realizes that they are …. MISSING!
Missing was made by the same production team behind Searching and, like that film, it’s a screenlife thriller, one that is told via computer desktops, security cameras, smartphones, and a smartwatch. Early on, June watches an episode of a true crime show called Unfiction, which is based on the missing person case at the heart of Searching, establishing that the two films take place in the same universe. Much as with Searching, the app-heavy visual style of Missing feels a bit gimmicky but it’s also undeniably effective. Indeed, it’s interesting to think that, even as technology connects us in new ways and as cameras film our every move, people can still somehow disappear off the face of the Earth. As June goes through both Grace and Kevin’s social media and email accounts, the film’s format lets us view the world through her eyes. Like her, we read every email and search for hidden meanings and missed clues.
The mystery at the heart of Missing is an intriguing one and the film is full of twists and turns. Unfortunately, many of the film’s later twists are more improbable than clever. For all of the film’s strengths, things pretty much fall apart during the film’s final third. That’s when the film comes up with a twist that’s surprising only because of how little sense it makes. It’s one thing to fool an audience by being clever. It’s another thing to fool an audience by just pulling a plot point out of thin air. The final big twist requires a huge suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience but Missing isn’t a horror or a sci-fi or a Fast & Furious-style action film. It’s a mystery and anyone who was actually trying to look for clues and come up with the solution on their own would have every right to be annoyed by the way the film handles its finale.
That said, it’s a well-acted film and, much like John Cho in Searching, Storm Reid deserves a lot of credit for bringing some genuine emotion to the lead role. With Reid in the lead role, Missing manages to become something more than just the latest twist on the found footage genre. I also liked the performance of Joaquim de Almeida as Javi, the local Colombian who aids June in the search for her mother. (As long as we’re going to keep spinning off new Searching and Missing films, I think the next one should be about Javi.) There are some genuinely funny moments in the film. Be sure to keep an eye on the messages that June gets from Angel (Michael Segovia) over the course of the film. Despite its flaws, Missing is an enjoyable thriller and, undoubtedly, it will make a good episode of Unfiction.