Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick Discuss ‘Missing’

Directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick Discuss ‘Missing’

The standalone sequel to Search is here, and like its predecessor, Absence raises some heated issues with the help of social media and technology. With Nia Long and Storm Reid as mother-daughter duo Grace and June Allen, Absence follows the twists and turns of Grace’s mysterious disappearance as June puts it all together at home with her laptop and some social media hacks. But while the film will entice you as a suspenseful thriller with astonishing editing and novel visual storytelling, its real appeal lies in the thematic undertones that underpin its whirlwind plot.

At first glance, Absence may seem like a whodunit about the many rabbit holes in the internet that undermine our privacy. But the film is actually more concerned with the public’s obsession with finding the perfect victim and villain for a message. It’s a fixation created and nurtured by a seemingly endless wave of true-crime content that sensationalizes real-life tragedies, often at the expense of people of color. AbsenceHis true story is about how quickly people (and the internet) smear and neglect people of color when it means getting another TikTok hit or Netflix true crime special.

what happens inside Absence?

Two teenage girls sitting on a couch scrolling on their laptops.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures

“A lot of this film plays with your prejudices and the ways you might 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. While the FBI hesitates to investigate her disappearance, June takes matters into her own hands to find out what really happened to her mother. During Absence Pulling her in for many plot twists is his big revelation that Grace never actually left for Colombia; She was kidnapped on the way to the airport by June’s father James (Tim Griffin).

When June was young, James dangerously insulted Grace. So years ago, Grace fled to California with June, changing their names and leading young June to believe her father was dead. As it turns out, James met Kevin while they were both in prison. It was Kevin who helped orchestrate this whole heist, hiring actors to reenact their failed vacation in Colombia. While all eyes and fingers were pointing to Kevin in Colombia, Grace was trapped in a cabin at James’ ranch. After a series of trials and tribulations, June manages to save the day and bring her mother home.


“Missing” review: a twisted crime thriller where Gen Z’s internet habits save the day

what does Absence‘s end actually mean?

A man and a woman get into a taxi.

Photo credit: Sony Pictures

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

“There was one [high profile] especially in a case where it felt like people on TikTok were benefiting from the comments and theories surrounding the case, which we didn’t really love,” Johnson shared [in real life].”

When Grace’s disappearance hits the news, everything about her case quickly becomes internet clickbait TikTokker and true crime fans of Generation Z 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 doesn’t and is adamant about making her a villain.

The wave of True Crime TikToks The pouring in and pointing at Grace as the real puppeteer behind it all shows how quick society is to point the finger at individual Black women (or men) rather than looking at the bigger picture. “We definitely had missing white girl syndrome in mind when we were developing it,” Merrick added. “A lot of this film plays on your prejudices and the ways you might misinterpret something, even you the viewer and not the people who are criticizing true crime.”

In Absence, true crime content creators don’t work with empathy and never stop wondering what could have prompted Grace to change her name in the first place. Instead, they hop on a dangerous media train for the onslaught of everything and jump to scandalous conclusions. It’s a phenomenon of Cat Cardenas slate magazine(Opens in a new window) dubbed the “True-Crime Brain” and we see it every day, on screen and off.

During Absence is a wild rollercoaster ride with a series of events that may seem unusual. Much of the film is based on real-life inspirations that guide its characters’ actions. The real joy of film is watching Your TikTok FYP page being fed on the big screen – a judgment on all that true crime is and can create.

Absence runs in cinemas.

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