The independent continuation of Searching is here, and like its predecessor, Absence of evaluates some important topics using social media and technology. Starring Nia Long and Storm Reid as mother-daughter duo Grace and June Allen, Absence of follows the twists and turns of Grace’s mysterious disappearance as June pieces together at home using her laptop and some social media hacks. But while the film will seduce you as a suspenseful thriller with surprising editing and innovative visual storytelling, its real appeal lies in the thematic overtones that underlie its turbulent plot.
At first sight, Absence of it might seem like a crime story about the internet’s many rabbit holes that undermine our privacy. But the film is more concerned with the public’s obsession with finding the perfect victim and villain for a story. It’s a fixation created and fueled by a seemingly endless wave of true crime content that sensationalizes real-life tragedies, often at the expense of people of color. Absence ofThe true story of is about how people (and the internet) are quick to villainize and neglect people of color if it means they get another TikTok hit or a Netflix true crime special.
what happens in Absence of?
Credit: Sony Pictures
“A lot of this movie is playing with your preconceptions and the ways in which you can misinterpret something.”
When Grace Allen fails to return from her vacation in Colombia with her new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung), time is of the essence. As the feds scramble to investigate her disappearance, June takes matters into her own hands to find out what really happened to her mother. While Absence of ties you into many plot twists, its big reveal is that Grace never left for Colombia; she was kidnapped on her way to the airport by June’s father, James (Tim Griffin).
James was dangerously abusive towards Grace when June was young. So Grace had eloped with June to California years earlier, changing their names and leaving young June believing her father was dead. It turns out that James met Kevin while they were both in prison. It was Kevin who helped him orchestrate this whole heist, hiring actors to play his Colombian vacation gone wrong. While all eyes and fingers were pointing at Kevin in Colombia, Grace was trapped in a cabin on James’ ranch the entire time. After a series of trials and tribulations, June manages to save the day and bring her mother back home.
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What Absence ofThe end of really mean?
Credit: Sony Pictures
Mashable did a quick zoom with the co-directors of Absence ofNick Johnson and Will Merrick, to discuss their film’s subtext.
“There was one [high profile] particular case where it felt like people on TikTok were cashing in on the comments and theories of this case, which we really didn’t love,” Johnson shared. “And then we injected that into the movie itself because we saw that happening. [in real life].”
When Grace’s disappearance hits the news, everything about her case quickly becomes Internet clickbait, with Gen Z TikTokkers and True Crime Aficionados delving into Grace’s past and discovering that she has something to hide. The viewer knows that Grace changed her name to escape her attacker, but the internet doesn’t and insists on making her a villain.
the wave of True Crime TikToks spilling and pointing at Grace as the real puppet master behind it all illuminates how quick society is to point the finger at single black women (or men) instead of looking at the big picture. “We definitely thought about the missing white girl syndrome while we were making this,” Merrick added. “A lot of this movie is playing with your preconceptions and the ways you can misinterpret something, even you as an audience and not the real crime people we’re criticizing.”
At the Absence of, true crime content creators don’t operate with empathy, never stopping to wonder what might have prompted Grace to change her name in the first place. Instead, they embark on a dangerous media rush by rushing everything, jumping to outrageous conclusions. It’s a Cat Cardenas phenomenon in Slate Magazine(opens in a new window) refers to as the “true criminal mastermind” and we see him every day, on screen and off.
While Absence of it’s a wild roller coaster ride with a series of events that may seem out of the ordinary, much of the film is based on real-life inspirations that guide the actions of its characters. The real joy of film is watching your TikTok FYP page being fed to you on the big screen – a dish on all things true crime and what it can create.
Absence of is showing in cinemas.