Searching (2018) got praise for its use of screenlife to tell a story of a father using technology to find his missing daughter. The film was innovative, fresh, and narratively inventive on its digital standpoint. It’s no wonder it took five years for executive producers Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chaganty, who directed Searching, to finally tell another engaging digital story without repeating themselves. The anthology sequel, Missing, flips the roles with a tech-savvy teenage daughter June ( Storm Reid) searching for her mother Grace (Nia Long).
This time, Chaganty puts the directorial reins to Nick Johnson and Will Merrick. In this film, Grace goes missing while vacationing in Colombia with her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung). After Grace never shows up at LAX where June was waiting to pick her up, June’s sleuthing adventure begins. And, if you thought Searching had suspenseful twists and turns, Missing takes it up a notch. The film’s several red herrings and violence that will leave audiences gasping.
Like its predecessor, Missing carries emotional weight to the story. June is raised by a single mother after losing her father at a young age. Reid clearly carries the entire film. Her character grapples with the idea that she may have lost another parent and frantically searches for any possible clue. With the help of FBI agent Elijah Park (Daniel Henney) and Javi (Joaquim de Almeida), a Colombian TaskRabbit she hires to be her eyes and ears there, June digs deeper into the truth that leads her to several conspiracies and a murder.
At times, June’s use of technology and social media became distracting; however, it makes sense as she’s a part of a generation that knows the latest trends. Johnson and Merrick leave subtle clues and hints throughout the film for the audience. But it’s impossible to catch them all if the screens are changing constantly. At one point, June has an epiphany and flips through multiple screens to come to a conclusion, which leads to a plot twist. There was never a moment to take a breath before jumping into another revelation.
Besides the obvious mystery, Missing does an excellent job showcasing how the media and police authority view cases like this. They don’t shy away from how the media vilifies Black women who go missing. We see TikToks, tweets, and videos of conspiracy theorists questioning whether or not Grace ran away instead. There’s also a moment when the police questioned if June really knew her mother as well.
Not all was dark and intense, though. There were some moments of levity through some funny browsers, password names, and a meta-true-crime series called Unfiction which exploits the story of Searching. (We see this series at the beginning of Missing.) Almeida also brought warmth to the story as a source of comfort and advisor to Reid’s distraught June.
Missing is a worthy successor of Searching with its unexpected twists and shocking conclusion. It doesn’t present anything new in terms of screenlife advancement. But it is fun nonetheless to see what crazy storytelling elements the writers are going to come up with and how they utilize modern mediums to share it.
Missing hits theaters on January 20, 2023.