Missing is the 2023 sequel to 2018’s film Searching, a film about a father looking for his missing daughter using the power of modern technology. Told through various phone and computer screens, the film actually managed to find some success using a format that, in truth, has produced way more bad movies than good ones. With this storytelling model being arguably less unique now than it was several years ago, can Missing possibly manage to match the first film’s quality and impact?
Missing essentially takes the plot of the first film and reverses it, having an 18-year old daughter named June, played by Storm Reid, taking it upon herself to find her missing mother when she leaves to go on vacation with her new boyfriend. I will say I do like this setup a bit more for a few reasons. Having the protagonist being younger gives them more opportunities to illustrate their technological literacy in a more convincing way. Not saying you older folks out there are bad at computers, I just think if someone’s going to be utilizing it as a detective tool, a teenager kind of makes sense. Additionally, I think it adds a new layer of triumph when a kid is able to pull off the job of adults in a convincing manner. Storm Reid continues to impress me as she moves into bigger roles, and I do hope she starts to take more varied roles as they become offered to her. The supporting cast is pretty good for the most part, helping carry the emotional weight and continuing to build mystery throughout. Some characters can be very one-note or ultimately don’t really do much to move the plot forward, but actors such as Nia Long do manage to bring some believability to the story.
Speaking of which, I did find myself to be pretty enthralled by the central mystery. There’s a lot of red herrings and misdirects that make you think you’ve figured it all out, before doing a 180 and bringing back plot points from early on you may have forgotten about. The film plants a lot of subtle seeds that aren’t actually there to mislead you persay, but to make you believe you believe that certain theories could be true. I will say it gets pretty convoluted at times, with twist after twist after twist becoming a bit more draining, as I do think the film could have been condensed further to make a short, tight thriller. The beginning takes a minute to get interesting and the end could’ve been resolved a lot quicker, but that middle chunk of the film is still genuinely engaging.
I guess my biggest issue with the film is its gimmick. Having the entire film be told through Facetime calls and text messages is a neat concept…it’s just that it’s been done already, by the previous film no less. Really I didn’t see how this film did anything all that new or interesting with the concept, at times feeling like a rehash of ideas. Not to mention that my immersion was often broken when it’s clear the sources the characters are using to record are a bit too clean and crisp, even with some artificial examples of video lag added to mimic authenticity. The need to tell this story this way also leads to a few contrived conveniences that feel forced into the plot for the sake of making this format work. These elements aren’t nearly as tight as the central conflict itself, which is a bit of a shame. There’s a very intriguing and compelling mystery at heart here that honestly could have been fine being told in a more conventional way. I do get why movies like these get made though. They’re insanely cheap to produce and usually reel in big returns. And if I’m being honest this is definitely one of the better ones, managing to be mostly smartly written and engaging enough to rise above its gimmick. I’m just not sure there’s anywhere else for this specific genre to go at this point.
Now if we can get a murder mystery solved by a kid in Fortnite, you might have my attention again.