Hey, friends. Barbarella here. I spend a lot of time in front of a screen. My day job requires a variety of reporting, coding, writing, chatting, and emailing on my computer. After my day job ends, I switch modes to write for AICN, which means I’m still planted in front of my computer, transcribing interviews and writing reviews. While movies are also technically on a screen, they feel different to me, since I don’t watch them on my phone or computer. In essence, it feels as though they provide a reprieve from the windows and chat boxes that so frequently invade my eyes. While Missing is a movie, and therefore, should offer me that escape, it doesn’t, because the vast majority of the movie views almost everything through a computer screen or a phone or a watch. Missing immerses me so much into the world of technology that it’s almost off-putting. However, the mystery makes the story engaging enough that I can forgive the formats used to tell it.
I will address formats again later, but I feel it’s important to say that this is not my favorite movie called Missing to come out in recent months. That honor goes to Shinzô Katayama’s film about a daughter whose dad disappears after claiming he’s going to collect the reward on a serial killer that he’s found. It’s a fascinating and at times, heartbreaking, story. This Missing is good, though, don’t get me wrong, but that one’s just better.
The subject of this review, Will Merrick and Nick Johnson’s Missing, tells June’s story after her mother goes abroad with her new boyfriend and never returns. June (Storm Reid) utilizes mad computer skills to investigate and seek answers regarding what happens to her mom, Grace (Nia Long). I love the level of intrigue throughout the story. It truly captivates. Also, getting to witness how deftly June navigates among multiple apps to communicate, gather information, and seek help blows my mind a little. She makes the best use of Taskrabbit I think I’ve ever seen! In fact, this film could be utilized as training material for useful tools the internet provides. One could even require technology-adverse people to watch it in order to showcase all the incredible resources available at one’s fingertips if only they took the opportunity to learn to use a computer or smart device. Not that many of us past a certain age would be able to match the speed and proficiency with which June maneuvers around the keyboard. I honestly feel a slight bit jealous over her dexterity. Sigh.
One thing that doesn’t elicit any jealousy is the situation in which she finds herself. At the beginning, it’s clear that June rebels against her mother and seeks to be left alone. (I mean, I guess that’s just being a teenager, right?) However, once her mom goes missing, then June begins to realize that having a caring mother involved in her life may not be the worst thing. She devises numerous innovative methods to seek out answers, which makes the story feel almost heist-like in its cleverness. What’s not clever, and quite frankly annoying, is that although almost everything gets viewed through some kind of computer screen, the scenes viewed directly seem to always be out of focus. I don’t understand the rationale behind it. Perhaps, the filmmakers want us to believe that reality today isn’t clear unless viewed through some sort of electronic device. Maybe there’s some other deep hidden meaning that escapes my ability to comprehend. Regardless of the reason, any time a character is blurry in a room, I get distracted and that mars my enjoyment of Missing. I just want the camera operator to pull focus in every one of those shots. It drives me a little crazy, but that’s a short trip from where I generally live, so I get over it quickly enough…until they do it again.
If you choose to see this movie, you’ll definitely want to avoid spoilers, because the reveals are the heavy-hitters in this. It’s those moments that allow me to forgive the filmmakers for some of the things I don’t appreciate. I genuinely enjoy some of the surprises in this. Admittedly, it’s also kind of fun watching Missing in a theater where you get to hear members of the audience having their aha moments as things are revealed.
Overall, I like the movie for its intrigue and cleverness, but the format and focus issues lessen my enjoyment slightly. Missing will be exclusively in theaters January 20. Here’s the trailer.