Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La
Released: August 31, 2018
I am going to write this review in three parts. First, I am going to give a basic plot of the movie without spoilers. I highly recommend you watch this movie without being spoiled because half the fun is trying to solve the mystery and if you knew who is or isn't involved, then it wouldn't be a satisfying watch. The plot of the movie is about a single father, David Kim (John Cho) trying to find his daughter, Margot (Michelle La), who's missing. At first, he thinks she's avoiding him because she's mad at him, but when he tries to reach her at her piano lesson, her teacher tells him she quit lessons six months ago (even though she's still been taking the $100 a week for lessons he gives her). He then finds out that she was invited to go camping with a group of friends, so he thinks that's where she is, but discovers that she never went. This is when he really starts to worry and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to help find her. The gimmick of this movie is that the whole thing is told through screens: phones, computer, security cameras, news camera. Social media plays a huge part of the movie as David uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of those to help find clues about Margot's whereabouts. There are very few times when you see two actors in the same room together; most of them communicate by FaceTime or video chatting or texting. I can only imagine that would have been very difficult to have no one to act against! So if you've never seen this movie, please go see it before you read the rest of the review! This is a debut of a young director and even though I had more questions at the end and some things seemed a little too convenient, I think it was a really good mystery movie and it's fun to watch a second time to see all the clues that were right in front of you and you get things from a different perspective when you know what happened.
In this next part, while I'm not giving away the main reveal of what happened, I will be talking about all the red herrings (as in any good mystery, you always have a few of those!), so I will be talking about the eliminated suspects. First of all, you always know the obvious ones are never the ones who did it. We get a couple of those here. David talks to a bunch of his daughter's classmates who were study group friends of hers and I never thought they were involved in her disappearance. For one thing, she didn't have any close friends and no one really paid attention to her. One of the first real suspects the movie wants you to think could possibly be involved (which meant he wasn't) was a guy named Derek Ellis who often made pervy remarks on her Instagram posts. I assume he was a classmate of hers. I don't know if he was a perv to just Margot or all the girls, but I'm surprised she never blocked him because in another scene when we see David looking at vlogs she did, she blocks a pervy user. David gets Derek's number (by paying $50! I thought he was going to get a bunch of results since he had a pretty common last name, but he gets the right guy.) At first, Derek refuses to tell David where he was the night Margot disappeared, but after David threatens to call the police, we find out he was at a Justin Bieber concert...and it's confirmed, haha. Once this case goes public and is all over the news with people posting their thoughts and prayers and theories about what happened on social media, David sees a post from Derek saying that Margot is with him and implying they've been having sex. It's another gross post, though I don't know which is worse: that or the girl in Margot's study group who told David they weren't close friends, but posts a YouTube video saying they were best friends. Thanks to Facebook and people loving to post where they are every minute of the day, David is able to find Derek at the movies and ends up beating him up. Detective Vick tells him to stop interfering in the investigation.
Another possible suspect is David's brother, Margot's uncle, who we meet early in the movie. I also knew this was a red herring because it seems to come out of nowhere and is only there to shock the audience as David finds texts between his brother and Margot implying something illicit is going on, like perhaps a sexual relationship, but I knew that wasn't it. Of course that isn't the case, but rather David finds out that Margot has been hanging out with her uncle to smoke weed. Hmm, is this a slight reference to Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle?
Another suspect is a girl Margot had been communicating with through a YouTube-like site called YouCast. It's the only made up social media platform in the movie. I understand why YouCast doesn't exist in real life because it's quite possibly the most useless thing. It's like YouTube in the sense that you post videos, but you're always live, so it's like when someone live streams on YouTube. Live streaming makes sense when you're a popular podcaster or YouTuber and have a live show where people can join in and ask questions or make comments. It makes sense when you have well over 100 people who are watching live. However, every time Margot goes on YouCast, she's lucky if she has even one "viewer". I guess the point of YouCast is to answer questions that people who join your cast can ask you. I've seen popular YouTubers stream live videos where they answer questions that people join in and ask, but Margot isn't a popular YouCaster; so how would people even know about her YouCast channel? It's just very weird. David goes through many of her videos and you can see that the highest number of people who ever viewed a single video was eight. It's no wonder, because the videos were super boring. Half the time she's having a one on one conversation with a young woman from Pittsburgh named Hannah who goes by the user name "fish n chips". Hannah types a question and we see Margot answer it verbally on the screen. It's a very weird way to have a one on one conversation with someone, especially when other people can listen in. It appears Hannah has a lot in common with Margot and she's the most prominent person in those YouCast videos, so naturally David wants to have her alibi checked out. Detective Vick tells him she was indeed in Pittsburgh at her job as a waitress and it was also confirmed by the girl's boss. So those are all the main suspects who seem the most likely, but they all have confirmed alibis. The plot thickens!
In this final part, I am going to discuss my prediction, then what really happened. I will say my prediction wasn't right, but I was kind of on the right track, but not really. But if you're still reading this and haven't seen the movie yet, this would be a good time to stop reading, go watch the movie, then come back and continue reading because some major spoilers are about to start right now! You have been warned! Do not read another word of this if you do not want to know who or what is behind the mystery! Spoilers start...NOW!
Okay, so Detective Vick tells David that they got a confession from an ex-con who admits that he abducted and killed Margot. Of course this is horrible and David is overcome with grief, but I'm checking how much time is left in the movie and thinking, Hmmm, there's still half an hour left; something isn't adding up. Not to mention that even though they found trace evidence of the guy at the lake where Margot's car was found, her body isn't found. They can't question the guy because he killed himself after he taped the confession. And keep in mind this is the first time we're seeing this guy. I didn't know why he was confessing; maybe he just wanted the attention, but I knew he wasn't the reason behind Margot's disappearance.
Let me tell you who I thought was behind Margot's disappearance: I thought it was Hannah aka fish n chips, the girl Margot had been chatting with on YouCast. Like I said before, they have a lot in common, but one of the main things is that Hannah's mom is sick with cancer and Margot has a lot of empathy for her because her own mother died of cancer about a year ago. Because of this, David has a hard time talking to Margot about her mother and their relationship has been a bit strained. I didn't think Hannah lured Margot away or anything malicious like that, but rather Margot decided to run away. Of course, I probably thought that because that's the narrative being pushed by Vick. She finds that Margot had created a fake ID and the money she was apparently sending to someone was actually going to herself.
I was right that fish n chips was involved, but I was also way wrong! When David is going through his emails on the day of Margot's memorial, he gets an e-mail from the funeral service telling him he can upload photos of Margot to preserve her memory. After he does that, he sees a photo of a young redheaded woman holding flowers as part of the site's homepage. It's a different picture, but this young woman is clearly the same young woman fish n chips uses as her YouCast profile pic. Hmmmmm. I was like, WTF is going on here?!?! And then I was like, Aha! I knew fish n chips had something to do with this! You think they made her a redhead so you would think she was just a red herring? (Ha ha). But I knew better. Okay, so while I was right that fish n chips was somehow involved, everything else I didn't see coming...and probably should have. It didn't even occur to me the Margot was being catfished (duh!) and when David calls the young woman who he finds out is a stock photo model (her name really was Hannah, though) living in L.A., she tells him she has no idea what YouCast is and never spoke to the police. This probably should have sent a red flag to David, but he calls Vick and gets her secretary who reveals to him that Vick had volunteered for the job rather than was assigned to the case as he was led to believe. Long story short, Vick's son, Robbie, was the one who was cat fishing Margot. He had a crush on her, but was too shy to tell her and pretended to be "Hannah" and brought up things in the conversation he knew about her (hence the reason "Hannah's" mom had cancer) and Margot had sent $2500 of the piano lesson money to "Hannah's" Venmo account after she finds the same user name. To be fair, "Hannah" never asked for the money, but we do see fish n chips telling Margot how rough money is, so that's why Margot sent her the money. Margot may be book smart, but she seems a bit stupid. Why is she sending some stranger she's never met TWENTY FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS? This person could be lying to you, oh wait, they were! Robbie wants to come clean to Margot, but instead of talking to her at school or calling her on the phone, or even Facebook messaging her like any normal person would do, he FOLLOWS her to the lake around 9 in the evening where she's just parked and smoking weed, and then surprises her by getting in her car. Seriously, what kind of a creep does that? Not surprisingly, Margot starts freaking out and runs away with Robbie following her and "trying to explain", but she's still fighting against him. I believe this is the moment when she calls her father, who's sleeping, but I didn't understand why she didn't leave a message or leave the phone on while she was having the confrontation with Robbie. He ends up pushing her down a fifty foot ravine and calls his mother, who is conviently a detective. Instead of calling the police and telling them there was an accident (which it was) or making sure Margot was still alive (she told the police there was no way she would survive the fall because she didn't hear anybody calling for help, but didn't she think of the possibility Margot may have been knocked unconscious?), she goes through this elaborate rouse just to protect her son where she pushes Margot's car in the lake, then gets in touch with David to help him with the case where she sends him on a wild goose chase making him think she had run away with the story of the fake ID. A huge clue David gets that Vick was involved was that there's a photo of her standing next to the man who confessed to killing Margot. He was an ex-convict who had worked with Vick in some volunteer project and when he's making his confession, he's clearly reading from something so you know Vick was there making him read it, then killed him after. This crazy bee-yotch went through some serious lengths when all she had to do was call for help and Margot would have been fine. Actually, Margot was fine (well, alive, anyway) when they found her because it had rained for a few days so that meant she only had to go two days without water.
Sure, a few things make you go "Hmmmmm" and what are the odds that the random girl's photo Robbie chose to be to pose as fish n chips would also be the same girl on the funeral site, but it's a pretty impressive movie. I wouldn't want to watch the computer/phone screen POV all the time, but I felt like I did learn a few things about technology while watching this!