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Biggest Unanswered Questions In Missing

Not to be confused with the 2021 Japanese thriller or the 1982 film starring Jack Lemmon, 2023's "Missing" is far better than its generic title suggests. This clever film distinguishes itself from other excellent movies that share the same title, thanks to its intricate web of mysteries and its unwavering commitment to its experimental form. "Missing" is a shining example of what GQ calls the Screenlife genre, where everything audiences sees comes from a computer screen in the world of the story. In other words, it's a gripping thriller told entirely through webcam footage, text messages, and other media.

Starring Storm Reid from "The Last of Us," the film follows teenager June (Reid) after her mother Grace (Nia Long) goes missing. As the trail runs cold, June takes matters into her own hands and begins using her web-sleuthing skills to track her mother down. Along the way, she is forced to confront how little she knows about her mom.

"Missing" does an excellent job of leading viewers through the twists and turns of the plot, and it's satisfying to watch all the pieces fall into place. However, the film leaves a few loose ends unresolved, which we explore below. Here are the biggest unanswered questions from "Missing."

How did Grace hide that James was still alive?

Near the end of "Missing," the story drops a massive bomb on viewers. Grace Allen's real name is Sarah, but she changed it as part of a witness protection program. Viewers also learn that her former husband James (Tim Griffin) is not dead, like June was told, but instead was sent to prison on domestic abuse charges. Once he was released, he orchestrated Grace's kidnapping. While the ending explains the kidnapping in great detail, it does leave some unanswered questions about Grace's change of identity.

It is no easy feat to escape your abusive husband, send him to prison, and then convince your daughter that he died of cancer. It's understandable why June never figured out the truth — she was so young at the time that she didn't understand what was happening. Still, how did Grace manage to fool everybody else? We find it hard to believe that there was nobody from her previous life who knew the truth about James. For instance, if Grace's parents were still alive and knew that she was in a witness protection program, they might have come forward with information crucial to the investigation after their daughter's kidnapping made national news.

It was certainly possible for Grace to cover up her husband's existence, but we wish the movie had spent more time showing how exactly Grace had pulled it off.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

How much did Kevin know?

Even by the end of the movie, Grace's boyfriend Kevin (played by Ken Leung from HBO's "Industry") is a bit of an enigma. Although Kevin was always a possible suspect, his courtship of Grace on the dating app certainly seemed sincere, so his betrayal likely came as a shock to viewers. Even after we learn that Kevin was in on the plot to kidnap Grace, there is still much we don't know about him.

How much did Kevin know about what James was planning? Was he aware that James wanted to kidnap not just Grace but also her teenage daughter? If so, was Kevin okay with that? June speculates that James started planning this job with Kevin while they were still in prison, but her theory is never officially confirmed. A private exchange between Kevin and James also reveals that Kevin knew his job was to throw the police off James' scent. Kevin certainly knew enough about Grace to find her after she changed her identity — he even knew her favorite '80s band (information which James probably shared with him). This kind of deep undercover scheme is clearly not the work of a hired grunt.

Kevin probably knew exactly what James was up to. However, we have a feeling he didn't inquire into the details too much.

How much did Heather know?

Heather (Amy Landecker), a lawyer and close friend of Grace, helped protect Grace from her abusive husband. Heather seems to be one of the few people who knows that Grace changed her identity, and she's definitely the first person who would suspect James after Grace went missing. This is why James blackmails Heather to keep her quiet.

We know that Heather knew more than she was letting on, and she almost definitely suspected James, but how much did she know about her situation, exactly? Did she know that Kevin was involved in the kidnapping? Did Heather assume, like the rest of the world, that Grace had been kidnapped in Columbia, or did she already know that Grace was taken on her way to the airport? She clearly didn't believe the theory that Grace didn't want to be found – the threatening photo that James left on her desk proved otherwise. Also, did Heather know June would be a target? Her insistence that June not investigate on her own suggests that Heather hoped June would be safe so long as she didn't get too close to discovering the truth about James.

When June grows suspicious of Heather and seeks her out, she finds Heather's computer in the process of erasing its hard drive, thus destroying any evidence that could have led to James. The movie never reveals if James did this after killing Heather or if he blackmailed Heather to do it herself.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Why didn't Kevin use a fake name with Grace?

There's something else about Kevin that doesn't quite add up. We know that Kevin created several fake identities to con other women, so it should have been a piece of cake for him to use another fake identity when dating and eventually kidnapping Grace. Yet the news reports reveal that Kevin Lin used his legal name with Grace. Why?

One possible answer is that he didn't have access to the resources to create a fake identity. He recently got out of prison, so the authorities were no doubt keeping a close eye on him. Maybe Kevin figured his lies would be more convincing if he based them on a grain of truth. Or maybe he knew that if he told the truth about his name and criminal past, then Grace would assume he had nothing else to hide. Perhaps he suspected Grace would see right through him if he used a fake identity because she knew a thing or two about fake identities. Who knows? Maybe Kevin actually had a soft spot for Grace. Perhaps he liked her enough to let down his guard and open up to her -– though apparently not enough to call off the kidnapping.

Still, Kevin must have been smart enough to know that after staging a fake kidnapping in Columbia he'd have a target on his back. Having a fake identity would have come in handy once he became a fugitive. It seems like Kevin must have been awfully confident that the phony kidnapping would divert any suspicion away from him.

Why did the footage of the van only turn up much later?

An important clue to the mystery only seems to appear when the plot requires it. The footage of Kevin and what appears to be Grace as they are ambushed and shoved into an unmarked van only shows up almost two days after Grace goes missing. It's surprising that there is no mention of this attack until halfway through the investigation. You'd think that a situation like that would attract attention as soon as it happened. Why did nobody report it to local authorities right away? It's also curious that the abductors didn't try to stop the witness from filming them, especially since the footage could have been significant in the investigation.

Actually, there's probably a reasonable explanation for this — James wanted the kidnapping to be seen, but only 48 hours after Grace had gone missing. After all, this wasn't really the moment Grace was abducted. Instead, the kidnapping was staged, using a woman named Rachel (Lauren B. Mosley) to pose as Grace. James likely meant for the footage to go public as a way to throw the scent off himself and Kevin. He just needed to delay its release to leave time for the trail to go cold. Most likely the "anonymous source" who filmed it was hired by James and was instructed to only post it on the Internet at the right moment.

However, that still doesn't explain why the other nearby witnesses shown in the clip didn't report it sooner.

Why did the police shoot Kevin?

In "Missing," law enforcement proves to be pretty unhelpful. Together, the teenage June and her Colombian friend Javier (Joaquim de Almeida) manage to achieve way more than the entire FBI. For most of the movie, the authorities at least have a valid excuse — they're restricted by international laws and the lack of information available on Grace. However, the cops do make one huge blunder that is pretty tough to defend.

When Kevin tries to escape Columbia, the police corner him on the rooftop, and Kevin is shown raising his arms in surrender. The authorities are seconds away from apprehending a crucial witness who knows the person responsible for the kidnapping and might even know where to find Grace. Yet, for some reason, the police kill Kevin. It's unclear who fires the first shot due to the shaky handheld camera. Still, even if Kevin had drawn a hidden weapon, surely the police could have found a nonlethal way to neutralize him. You'd think they would know how crucial it was to keep Kevin alive.

For that matter, it doesn't even make sense for Kevin to attempt a reckless escape. He has no personal stakes in the abduction — he was just in it for the paycheck, after all — and it was obvious that he was completely surrounded. Why not just offer information on James in exchange for immunity? That probably would have been a smarter move.

Why didn't James shut down June's computer?

When James kidnaps June, he makes a mistake that proves to be his undoing. It seems like James thought of everything when he planned the abduction, but he forgets one teensy thing — he doesn't bother to shut down June's computer.

Sure, James kind of has his hands full. He is, after all, restraining a struggling hostage. However, he could have taken a moment to cover his tracks after he locked June in his trunk. Had James been paying attention, he would have noticed that June had left some incriminating evidence right on her computer screen. For instance, Grace's email account was open, showing her supposedly dead husband on her list of blocked contacts. There was even a threatening email from James after he discovered his wife's new identity, which would have been an important lead for the police. 

What's more, June's computer was displaying security camera footage pointed right at the house where the hostages were being held. True, the police probably wouldn't have found this evidence until after James had killed Grace and dragged June away to another hiding place. While it would have been too late to save them, the evidence still would have pointed straight to James. Thanks to this oversight, June is able to save herself and her mother. Realizing that her computer screen is still displaying live footage from James' house, June uses that connection to voice-activate the phone she left at home, which she uses to call the police.

Why does it take June so long to remember the smartwatch?

For most of the movie, June is tech-savvy and fairly effective at tracking down her missing mom. However, there is one moment in "Missing" where June may seem rather dense to viewers. In the climax, James locks her in his trunk, drives her to the middle of nowhere, and traps her in a room with her mother. Only after all this does June remember that she is wearing a smartwatch she can use to call for help.

There is no indication that James tied her hands until after he arrived at the house where Grace was imprisoned. So unless the trunk of his car had a built-in Faraday cage, June might have been able to send a message for help from the trunk. Depending on what kind of smartwatch June had and whether or not she had linked it to her cell phone before she got kidnapped, she might have been able to call the police even though her cell phone was still back at home (per Men's Gear). 

June probably could have gotten a cell phone signal on the watch before James took her off the grid. Her traumatic escapade could have been over a lot sooner if she'd only realized that the answer was on her wrist the whole time.

Why does James take so long to die?

In the climax of "Missing," James shoots Grace in the side, and Grace responds by stabbing him in the neck with a shard of glass. Based on the injuries the two of them receive, it makes sense that Grace would survive longer than her ex-husband. Nevertheless, it's surprising that James lasts as long as he does.

Since James has a shard jutting out of his jugular, it's a little hard to believe that he manages to lock up his wife and daughter and stagger over to his computer. He even starts to type in a search query before he finally keels over and dies. Most likely, James would be experiencing unbearable pain, so we're not so sure he would have the lucidity to Google the nearest hospital. In fact, we suspect he would be too busy choking on his own blood.

Still, if you can suspend disbelief, the irony of this situation makes it definitely worth watching. It's an incredibly fitting comeuppance for James, one that comments on how deeply people depend on technology. It's almost amusing that the tech-savvy man who orchestrated an elaborate kidnapping dies in front of his computer — which doesn't do him any good in his final moments.

Did Javier ever make amends with his son?

Javier is with June almost every step of the way, but sadly viewers never get to see how his story ends. The film gives us scant clues about Javier's backstory. We know that he had a falling-out with his son, but what exactly they were fighting about is a big mystery. 

Judging by when Javier tells June that sometimes parents make mistakes, it certainly seems like Javier might have done something he regrets. June asks Javier if he ever tried reaching out to his son again, to which Javier replies, "He knows where I am." This sets up the expectation that Javier is eventually going to make amends with his son, although we never quite see any payoff for this plot thread.

Still, viewers will probably get the sense that Javier has changed. After seeing what almost happened to June and her mother, perhaps he has decided to reach out to his loved ones before it's too late. It's not hard to imagine the direction Javier is going, but it might have been nice if the falling action had shown that June was still in touch with Javier. The film didn't need to go into detail about Javier and his son. Just a small moment would have sufficed, like the scene with Marley at the end of "Home Alone."

What was Kevin trying to tell June?

Arguably, one of the biggest unanswered questions in "Missing" happens before the abduction even begins. Prior to Kevin and Grace leaving for Columbia, we see Kevin alone with June in her bedroom, and he seems to be trying to tell her something. His dialogue starts out innocent enough –- just a normal "stepdad" conversation where he tells June that he loves her mother very much. However, Kevin is clearly preparing to tell June something important until Grace interrupts. It must have been something he didn't want Grace to hear, considering how he clams up when Grace enters the room and tries to convince her to leave the room so he can talk with June in private again.

We never learn what Kevin was trying to say. The only clue is when he tells June the trip is "for a very special reason." What reason is that, exactly? Obviously, we know the real reason — it's part of an elaborate kidnapping. Still, there's no way Kevin would jeopardize his mission before it even began, right? Perhaps he intended to say he was planning to propose to Grace (technically true, even though it was part of the kidnapping scheme). Sharing this would have fit with his cover story and diverted suspicion away from him. 

Maybe Kevin was starting to feel guilty and took pity on June. Perhaps he figured the least he could do was assure June that her mother loved her before he stole Grace away forever.