Hollywood writers are hitting the sweet spot when it comes to the screenplays they are producing.
Aside from toying with the moral ambiguity of their protagonist and antagonist, they are taping into the social media-obsessed world of audiences.
With technology and AI penetrating so many aspects of our lives, it’s unsurprising that most TVs and films have made it a key focus in their offerings.
“Missing”, which is an anthology sequel to “Searching” from 2019, uses social media as a crucial facet of the storytelling.
The thriller centres on June Allen (Storm Reid), who is a contumacious 18-year-old, and her single mother, Grace (Nia Long), from Los Angeles.
At the start of the movie, June gives her mother a half-hearted goodbye as she heads to LAX with Kevin Lin (Ken Leung), her new beau, for a much-needed holiday to Cartagena, Colombia.
The tension is obvious as June isn’t happy that her mother will only be back the day after Father’s Day. And June misses her late dad James Walker (Tim Griffin).
To fill the void, she constantly watches the family home videos.
With her mom away, she decides, with the help of her BFF Veena (Megan Suri), to throw a party. And she ends up drinking away her frustrations.
Fast forward to Monday, which is when she needs to fetch her mom and Kevin, she is terribly hungover.
With the house a mess, she enlists the help of a cleaning service and heads to the airport. While waiting for them, she does a recording of a quirky welcome back poster for her mom.
But they never arrived, which makes June uneasy. As soon as she gets home, she calls the hotel to find out if they checked out.
Unable to converse in the local language, she uses Google Translate to help her.
She then reaches out to her mom’s best friend Heather Damore ( Amy Landecker), who is a lawyer, to get the relevant authorities to assist.
She also reaches out to FBI Agent Elijah Park (Daniel Henney) and Javier Ramos (Joaquim de Almeida), a Colombian private investigator to assist.
She puts together an evidence board, piecing together all the social media correspondence from Kevin on the trip.
Her online super sleuthing skills includes hacking into Kevin’s online accounts, including the correspondence he shared with her mom on the dating website to establish a timeline of when and how they met.
While most teenagers would probably be an emotional mess, given the circumstances, June is anything but.
Her strong personality makes her as relentless as Liam Neeson (“Taken”). The exception, of course, is that she has a different set of skills.
Thankfully, Veena also helps her during the online search.
As the investigation progresses and new revelations come to light, Grace is painted as a villain instead of a victim by every Tom, Dick and Harry clout-chasing on social media.
The noise and trolling grow deafening but June remains focused and Javier becomes an invaluable help as well.
Along the way, trust becomes an issue for June, especially when she learns that Heather hasn’t been honest with her.
As the drama unfolds, June realises her mistakes and her frequent rush to judgment with her mom, whom she often ignored. In replaying voice notes that she refused to open previously, she is filled with remorse.
But finding her mom is the only thing that’s important to her, despite her search leading her down some treacherous paths.
There are plenty of red herrings in the storyline. And with every upset, the anticipation builds to get to the bottom of the truth about her mom’s past and how it played a hand in her going missing.
Ultimately, the technology and social media apps that June relied on are what save the day.
“Missing” is a fast-paced thriller from the start to end. Reid makes for a wonderful anchor for the story. She channels her teenage rebellion in a productive way, which also helps her keep her wits about her.
Her chutzpah in getting the powers that be to heed her leads, most of which were obtained illegally, is impressive.
Long, for the scenes she features in, nails the role of a doting mom who is technologically challenged but tries all the same, with comical results.
“Missing” is about a fractured family relationship and how a secret from the past threatens the very fabric of that strained bond. It tugs at the heart and, through June, delivers an empowering message.
∎ “Missing” is streaming on Netflix.