I’ve been advocating for Searching (2018) since I left the theater. It is a film that I found so much to love, and have shared it with my high school film classes pretty much every year since. It never fails to grab their attention and shock them. Just a few days after showing Searching to my Film 1 class, I saw the trailer for Missing (2023), and was excited to see a spiritual sequel coming to theaters in January 2023. While Searching’s director Aneesh Chaganty didn’t return to helm Missing, first-time directors Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick did work on the editing of Searching. Missing manages to give another compelling story, and evolve the style of “on-screen” storytelling yet again.
June Allen (Storm Reid) is getting ready to throw several days’ worth of parties as her overprotective mother (Nia Long) has gone on vacation with her new boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). June seems to have everything under control – but when she goes to pick them up from the airport, her mother never arrives. Determined to discover what happened to her mother, June utilizes technology to do her own investigation, while the police and FBI are hamstrung by bureaucratic red tape.
The decision to tell a full movie on a computer screen has evolved a lot since Unfriended. Searching utilized classic film language on the screen by zooming into the screen itself. We may only see a close-up of a character via a Facetime call that the movie frames in on. We follow the mouse as it moves to a location. Missing adds creative transitions where the audience dives into a GPS app via the arrow icon, as it moves to show the distance traveled. At first, these new changes seemed to almost break the format – but it soon settles in, and feels like a logical progression. It’s not just more of the same; it’s the next phase.
Missing manages to feel like Searching while weaving an even more elaborate tapestry, introducing compelling characters and ultimately doing its very own thing. In fact, the story and its structure are better than Searching in many ways. John Cho makes Searching shine, even when elements of the story feel a little tacked on. While all of the cast in Missing performs quite well, it is really the story and the various set-up/payoff moments that make it so memorable. It is impressive to see a sequel elevate itself from the original. I’ve seen Searching so many times that I was worried Missing wouldn’t live up to my love of the first. Instead, I found myself quietly clapping throughout the film, as it continued to impress me. I was quite invested in the story and the characters, and the way the film concludes was completely satisfying. Missing is a Must See and I encourage you to head to a local theater to check it out.