At the height of the pandemic, it felt like screens were the only way to reach out beyond our bubbles. Hunched over a glowing tablet or phone was where many of us worked, shopped and tried – with varying degrees of success – to distract ourselves. For all the benefits, it was easy to feel unsettled and even resentful. Surely not every aspect of the human experience can be digitised and beamed over wifi?
That friction between the supposed convenience and sometimes frustration of doing everything online is the engine that powers Missing, a nifty new thriller that unfolds entirely via the main character’s laptop screen. That might sound like an unnecessary straitjacket if you are trying to tell an engaging cinematic story. But stop to consider the bedlam of the average teenager’s digital life: a constantly pinging concerto of iMessage notifications, incoming video calls, looping TikToks, cheesy selfies, hastily typed reminder notes and questionable search queries.
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Witnessing how she messes about online turns out to be an extremely efficient way to get to know 18-year-old June (played by Storm Reid, already a TV veteran from supporting roles in Euphoria and The Last of Us). In short order, we learn her dad died when she was much younger and that her mum Grace (Nia Long) relocated the family to LA. While June is upset that Grace is going on a romantic break to Colombia, she is also excited to be home alone and finally able to host a house party (one of her early searches is “how to throw a rager on a budget”).
So far, so raucous teen comedy. But when Grace and her new beau Kevin (Ken Leung from Industry and Lost) fail to return from their trip to Cartagena, June goes from being annoyed, to concerned, to frantic. Why are they not answering their phones or responding to messages? Why have they switched off location data? How well does her mum really know Kevin?
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While the authorities blithely ask her to fill out some forms, June embarks on her own investigation, putting together a timeline of the couple’s last known movements and attempting some amateur hacking to access their personal accounts. It is all the more impressive considering she begins this task with a massive hangover.