Full of slick misdirections and clever plot twists, MISSING rises above the novelty of its online footage subgenre to take its place as a solid mystery-thriller. Not that it doesn’t take excellent advantage of the limitations of its chosen subgenre. Au contraire, it incorporates those very limitations as integral plot points.
In it we find June (Storm Reid), Junebug to her adoringly overprotective single mother, Grace (Nia Long), doing what any 18-year-old would do with the house to herself over the weekend. She’s planning a rager with the emergency money Grace has given her while she and new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung) take a weekend getaway to Cartagena. That it’s also Father’s Day weekend adds even more to the simmering resentment June is feeling about her mother’s budding relationship, even though her beloved father (Tim Griffin in video footage) has been dead for over a decade.
The party, planned with best friend Veena (Megan Suri) is epic. So epic that June is running late to pick her mother up from LAX that Monday. Not that it matters. Grace is not on the flight, and calls to the hotel in Cartagena turn June’s irritated concern into steadily growing dread. Using the internet, and all its attendant devices and applications, June does a hard search, and breaks a few privacy laws, in order to make law enforcement taker her mother’s disappearance seriously with varying degrees of success. When all else fails, she contracts Javier (Joaquim de Almeida), a grizzled dogsbody from the Colombian version of TaskRabbit, to trace her mother’s last known movements, only to find information that is both troubling and contradictory.
Writers/directors Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick do a fine job of dropping clues amid their herrings of many colors. Their attention to detail amid the confusion is subtle enough so that it doesn’t call undue attention to something important, but also makes sure that it registers. Not an easy feat, but, as with the idiom in which they are working, it all feels organic.
They also expand the POV to more than the concern on June’s face, though Ms. Reid is surely accomplished enough as a thespian that using only tight close-ups of her face would be more than adequate to tell the uncomfortable emotional journey that June is on. This is important as our empathy grows the longer the mystery continues, and the more isolated June becomes even as her contacts expand internationally. Relationships IRL become strained, strangers become her lifeline, and the sometimes prickly rapport she develops with Javier takes on every growing importance. A rapport that can be ended with the click of a button if the wrong word is spoken. Full credit to de Almeida for delivering such a layered performance with that ci-mentioned restriction of a tight close-up which comprises his role.
MISSING is a fast-paced excursion through the wonders of connectivity, analog and virtual. Its judgment calls are as thoughtful as they are on point about how technology pervades every facet of our lives, consensual or not. It’s too late to worry about if it’s good or bad. It’s just a fact of life. And sometimes, a really nifty flick. N.B. Just for fun, keep track of the constant reference to the color green in the news crawls of life news.