What is more terrifying? The fact that technology traces almost every aspect of one’s daily life so that it is almost impossible to truly disappear? Or the fact that even with all of the shared technology around the world, that it is still possible to disappear without a trace in the middle of a city?
June (Storm Reid) is a typical teen whose face is literally in front of a screen at all hours. Her overbearing mom (at least she seems so to June) is going on vacation to Columbia with her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), leaving June with the house for a week. Despite careful instructions from mom Grace (Nia Long), June’s quest is to party hard and just try to remember to pick up Grace and Kevin at the Los Angeles airport when they return.
Well, they don’t return.
What is interesting is that somehow this is all portrayed through the screens of every day technology; either via June staring at her computer, or posting selfies on Instagram, or sharing texts and pop-up messages with her friends. We even see her waiting at the airport holding a sign, because she is live-streaming the moment. It’s a fascinating and mind-boggling type of storytelling, and it is a bit disturbing that it works so well. Ever hear of going off the grid, kid?
Missing follows June’s panicked attempts to track down her missing mother on another continent… which she does by literally not leaving her own desk in Los Angeles. The filmmakers point out that since their previous film Searching (2018), which shared a similar tech-centric storytelling, that so many more tech possibilities have opened up to add to the plot, including June’s ability to hire an errand-runner (Joaquim de Almeida) in Columbia and video chat with him as he drives his scooter around the city. Meanwhile, she is juggling apps and info and even the media, a clues (and new types of clues) come in from other digital sleuths like herself. But it also introduces that the unreliability of information found on the internet. Digital manipulation is just as scary as digital truth.
It is interesting to think of how quickly a film like this may be dated, by an app losing its popularity or changing its user interface, or even updating a font. Regardless, this is a sort of storytelling style I had never seen before… and I was surprised that it plays so perfectly as a taut thriller. And I have to admit it’s one of the few times that I haven’t wanted to yell at a character to just turn off their damn phone for a change. It’s terrifying to think that technology alone may be the one thing that can save your life.