Posted on January 19, 2023 at 4:31 pmB +
|Lowest Recommended Age:||High School|
|MPAA Rating:||Rated PG-13 for teen drinking, some strong violence, language, and thematic material|
|Alcohol/ Drugs:||Teen drinking and drug use|
|Violence/ Scariness:||Intense peril and violence, domestic abuse, characters injured and killed|
|Diversity Issues:||Diverse characters|
|Date Released to Theaters:||January 20, 2023|
I promise, the only spoiler in this review is an answer to the question: Was the very clever 2018 missing girl mystery “Searching,” almost entirely told on the computer screen of a father trying to find his teenage daughter, just a stunt, or does it open up a new kind of storytelling? We’re told that “Missing” is from the “minds behind ‘Searching,'” meaning that Aneesh Chaganty, who directed the original and co-wrote the screenplay with Sev Ohanian, provided the story for this one, and they share producer Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch”). “Missing” co-directors and screenwriter Nicholas D. Johnson and Will Merrick edited “Searching,” and the new film feels very much part of the same world but refreshingly up-to-date. It builds lightly on the original but is very much its own treat of a twisty thriller. If any part of it is less choice, it is the generic title itself, without the original’s double meaning linking the mystery in real life to the way we get information online.
Once again, a frantic family member is searching for someone who has gone out of contact, and the contrast between the omnipresent information available online and the unsolvable absence is immediately absorbing. And as in the first one, we are dealing with a single parent and a child who is still mourning the one who has died. June (an excellent Storm Reid) is 18, and perhaps a bit too eager to get her mother, Grace (Mia Long) out of town, though she is not a fan of Kevin (Ken Leung), the man who is taking Grace on a vacation trip to Colombia.
As she is getting ready to leave, we see Grace on FaceTime, trying to give her daughter some vital information — who will be checking in on her, where the emergency money is, when to pick them up on their return. We can see that June is feeling smothered via the avatar she has for her mother’s profile and via the nonsense, with a few OMGs, she types after Grace tells her to take notes.
And then, amusingly, we see June getting that emergency money and doing searches for things like cheap ways to get drunk, to put on a party for her friends. It is such a success that she almost misses that pick-up at the airport. But Grace and Kevin are not there. And June has to figure out how to search for her mother 3500 miles away.
As promised, I am not going to spoil the deliciously surprising twists and turns of the storyline. I’ll just say that they are very clever, and the filmmakers made the most of the technology’s ability to show us what June is thinking as she starts to type something and then backtracks and changes her mind, whether it is finding a Taskrabbit who fits her budget (a terrific Joaquim de Almeida), filling out a State Department missing person report, or hacking someone’s accounts. This film proves that the screen-told story is not just a gimmick but an intiguing new tool that opens up many new opportunities for imaginative story-telling.
Parents should know that this movie includes criminal activity, peril and violence with characters injured and killed, drug use, strong language, and teen drinking.
Family discussion: What clues did you pick up from June’s screen before she did? Who did you suspect? Will this movie make you think about online access differently?
If you like this, try: “Searching” and “Modern Family’s” “Connection Lost” episode, also all on computer screens.