Long Distance Runaround
Directed by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick
Starring Storm Reid, Nia Long, Ken Leung
Released January 20th, 2023
Teenager June Allen (Storm Reid) is ready to throw a banger of a house party. Her mom, Grace (Nia Long), has gone off to Columbia with her boyfriend, Kevin (Ken Leung). Grace and Kevin met on a dating site and have been an item for a while. June isn’t too keen on him, but whatever. Let’s get this party started. Friends are invited, cash apps are utilized, alcohol procured, loud music engaged, adolescent debauchery achieved. Waking up to a completely trashed abode, June pops online and pays for a cleaning service to swing by and do the dirty work of cleaning her house. Then it’s off to the airport to pick up Mom and Kevin. They never arrive. June must use her wits and her generational knowledge of all things internet to find her mom and discover the secrets that led to her disappearance.
Obviously, the story of any film you watch unfolds on a screen, be it in a theater, on your television, tablet, phone, or the back of someone’s airplane seat. Missing takes this to the next level, by following our characters through their screens. We see the story through the point of view of the character’s computers, televisions, tablets, phones. This is the same device used by the excellent 2018 film Searching, which is from the same filmmaking team behind Missing. This team, comprised of Sev Ohanian, Aneesh Chaganty, Nick Johnson, Will Merrick, and Natalie Qasabian, also made the harsh Munchausen syndrome by proxy thriller Run, starring Sarah Paulson.
The three films share a universe, though this isn’t a sequel in the conventional sense. Think of this as an anthology series. You don’t have to have seen Searching or Run to enjoy Missing, though you may pick up on some easter eggs if you have. Part of the fun of Searching was watching John Cho as a non-tech-savvy dad trying to navigate the internet, and all of the relatable frustrations that arise. Part of the fun of Missing is watching Storm Reid as a teen who navigates the internet with comfort and ease.
It also feels fresh to see a young person’s quest to find their missing parent, a plot more often used in animated films than in live action films. The reveal of what’s really going on is just as hard to figure out as the reveal in Searching, but perhaps not as satisfying. Both films smartly take time establishing characters we care about, and eventually feel protective toward.
Missing has plenty of funny moments, effective tension, and an earned emotional core. I underestimated how intense and involving it would be. Following these characters through their computer, television, tablet, and phone screens affords an intimacy few thrillers can match.