Directed by: Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Written by Patrick Hao
It is funny that the long-awaited stand-alone sequel to the surprise 2018 hit “Searching,” a film about a father using his internet sleuthing skills to find his missing daughter, “Missing’s” biggest deviation from the original film was to have the daughter find her missing parent. Yet, here we are about five years later for another installment of a “Screenlife” film, a term coined by virtuoso producer Timur Bekmambetov, in which the entire film takes place on a computer screen. Like with found footage movies, this modern form of an epistolary novel is an attempt to add tactility to the events of the film. We too know how to use Google or TaskRabbit. “Missing” strains credulity with the bounds of what a true Screenlife film can portray but its pulpy airport yarn provides just enough thrills to justify its existence.
Like the previous film, “Missing” is a single parent-child story. The relationship between June Allen (Storm Reid) and Grace (Nia Long) is strained but loving. June’s fondness for the rose-colored memory of her father, her mother’s strict behavior, and the growing pains of being a teen, causes tension between June and Grace. When Grace and her boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung) do not appear for their airplane pick up from their trip to Colombia, June, a child of the internet, begins to use all her tools at her disposal to find them.
All the while, the film plays out on various forms of internet connected mediums from phone screens, Apple Watches, to Macs. In fact, with the amount of Apple products and the handy ways it is used, it wouldn’t be a surprise that the film was subsidized by the Apple marketing team. Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick, editors of the previous film, do their best to create a sense of realism in the events. But, at a certain point, there must be leaps of fancies taken (although the punchline to the film gave a good chuckle). Johnson and Merrick know that a lot of the joys of the film are the minor slice-of-life humor they can wring out of the concept, whether it is solving the CAPTCHA or using Google Translate to try to cross language barriers.
If anything is a problem, “Missing’s” mystery is bigger than “Searching,” spanning different countries, a common sequel problem, straining credulity in the events of the film. Storm Reid does not quite have the sure-handedness to carry the film’s premise the way that John Cho does in the original. In fact, when the film takes a brief detour to explore Grace’s relationship with Kevin, I almost hoped that Leung would have taken over the film’s exposition. The film pays an obligatory lip service to our “modern culture” of true crime obsession and theorizing, but this film ultimately has dime-store novel ambitions caring about the thrills, no matter how cheap. At a certain point, any plot twist was in play by the film’s logic.
Screenlife is probably too difficult, as mainly a product of post-production, to ever proliferate by the cheapness found footage films allow for. But, the cinema landscape should welcome one of these films every two to three years. What else are we going to do? Watch TikTok all day?