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Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick Talk About ‘Missing’

The independent sequel to To search is here, and like its predecessor, Missing weighs in on some hefty topics using social media and technology. Starring Nia Long and Storm Reid as mother-daughter duo Grace and June Allen, Missing follows the twists and turns of Grace’s mysterious disappearance as June puts everything together at home using her laptop and some social media hacking. But while the film will lure you in as a suspenseful thriller with astonishing editing and new visual storytelling, the real appeal rests in the thematic undertones underlying the swirling plot.

At first sight, Missing may seem like a crime story about the Internet’s many rabbit holes that undermine our privacy. But the film is actually more concerned with the audience’s obsession with finding the perfect victim and villain for a news story. It’s a fixation created and fueled by a seemingly endless wave of true-crime content sensationalizing real-life tragedies, often at the expense of people of color. MissingThe real story of ‘s is about how quick people (and the internet) are to berate and neglect people of color if it means getting another TikTok hit or Netflix true crime special.

What’s happening inside Missing?

Two teenage girls sit on a couch while scrolling through their laptops.

Credit: Sony Pictures

“A lot of this movie plays with your preconceptions and the ways you can misinterpret something.”

When Grace Allen doesn’t return from her vacation in Colombia with her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), time is of the essence. As the FBI continues to investigate her disappearance, June takes matters into her own hands with social media to find out what really happened to her mother. While Missing drags you in for many plot twists, the big reveal being that Grace never actually left for Colombia; she was kidnapped on her way to the airport by June’s father, James (Tim Griffin).

James dangerously offended Grace when June was young. So years earlier, Grace fled to California with June, changed their names, and left young June believing her father was dead. It turned out that James met Kevin while they were both in prison. It was Kevin who helped him orchestrate this whole heist by hiring actors to reenact their failed vacation in Colombia. While all eyes and fingers were on Kevin in Colombia, Grace was trapped in a cabin on James’ farm the entire time. After a series of trials and tribulations, June manages to save the day and get her mother back home.


‘Missing’ review: A twisty whodunit in which Gen Z’s internet habits save the day

What does Missingreally mean the end?

A man and a woman get into a taxi.

Credit: Sony Pictures

Mashable hopped on a quick Zoom with the co-directors of MissingNick Johnson and Will Merrick, to discuss the subtext of their film.

“There was one [high profile] particularly the case where it felt like people on TikTok were taking advantage of the commentary and theories of this case, which we didn’t really like,” Johnson shared. “And so we injected that into the movie itself because we saw that happen [in real life].”

When Grace’s disappearance hits the news, everything about her case quickly becomes internet clickbait TikTokkers and Gen Z true crime fans dig into Grace’s past and find out she has something to hide. The viewer knows that Grace changed her name to escape her abuser, but the internet does not and is adamant about making her a villain.

The wave of true crime tiktoks pouring in and pointing to Grace as the real puppeteer behind it all shows how quick society is to point the finger at single black women (or men) instead of looking at the bigger picture. “We definitely thought about the missing white girl syndrome while we were making this,” Merrick added. “A lot of this movie plays with your preconceptions and the ways you can misinterpret something, even you as an audience and not the true crime people we’re criticizing.”

In Missing, true crime content creators lack empathy and never question what could have driven Grace to change her name in the first place. Instead, they jump on a dangerous media wagon for the hustle and bustle of it all, and jump to outrageous conclusions. It’s a Cat Cardenas phenomenon Slate magazine(Opens in a new window) is called “true-crime brain,” and we can see it every day, both on screen and off.

While Missing is a wild roller coaster with a series of events that may seem unusual, much of the movie is based on real life inspirations that guide the actions of the characters. The real pleasure of the movie is watching it your TikTok FYP page getting to see you on the big screen – a dish on all things true crime and what it can create.

Missing is out at the cinema.

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