- Hans Weber
- December 6, 2023
‘#annaismissing’ movie review: Czech online thriller isn’t clickbait, it’s #therealdeal
A teenage girl attempts to track down a missing influencer after discovering compromising photos on her father’s phone in #annaismissing, a twist-laden Czech film now playing in Prague cinemas (and with English subtitles at Kino Světozor). This expertly-crafted thriller keeps you guessing at every turn, and solidifies director Pavel Soukup‘s presence as a filmmaker to watch on the local scene.
Soukup’s previous feature, the similarly-themed streaming show #martyisdead won an International Emmy Award for short-form series in 2020. Like that series, central to #annaismissing is the presence of modern technology – from Facebook and Instagram to podcasts, smartphone apps, and in-car cameras – throughout the course of screenwriter Lucie Kryzová‘s sharp story.
Otherwise, #annaismissing represents the kind of old-school thriller that peaked in the 90s: the kind that features a major story shift every 20 minutes as new suspects and motives are revealed, and jerks around our allegiances every step of the way. The experience is similar to the recent screenlife thrillers Searching and Missing, or even the controversial found footage horror film Megan is Missing, but this one is ultimately more effective as isn’t bound to a filmmaking gimmick.
#anaismissing stars Alexandra Vostrejžová as teenager Nina, who is rattled when she discovers a provocative picture of a young woman on her father’s phone. Instead of confronting dad Eliáš (Marek Němec), she begins her own amateur investigation, and discovers the photo was of a popular Czech influencer… who has recently gone missing.
Through flashbacks, we learn that Anna (Viktorie Vítová) was playing a dangerous game. After having her own nude photos leaked online, which her lawyer (Petra Bučková) helped scrub from the net, she started to get some revenge porn of her own: by creating another Instagram account that paired unsolicited dick pics she received with profile photos of their owners culled from Facebook and LinkedIn.
Did dad, or even mom (Barbora Bočková) have something to do with Anna’s disappearance? What about Anna’s sketchy ex-boyfriend Libor, who seems to have an active interest in the case? Or Anna’s mom (Vlastina Svátková), who she had a volatile relationship with? Or one of Anna’s dick pic predators (Marek Holý), who lost his job after being outed and later tracked down Anna at her home?
Nina and friend Robin (Magdalena Čečo) are on the case, with the help of Anna’s online followers, although Nina soon uncovers danger as she retraces Anna’s last steps.
#annaismissing gracefully navigates all the particulars of a top-flight suspense film, and never loses its grip on the audience. While not every plot development may be completely plausible, the filmmakers keep things moving fast enough so that we don’t have time to question them. Only some soulful ballads on the soundtrack at key climactic moments feel out of place, and pull us out of what is otherwise a captivating experience.
Despite the presence of teenage leads, #annaismissing isn’t for kids: it features multiple scenes of brief but graphic nudity that would exceed the limits of an R rating in the states. Included among those is a harrowing sequence featuring a fully-nude Vítová, playing a 15-year-old, that is not intended to be erotic but rather emphasize her inappropriate youth.
Recalling the unsettling Czech sex predator documentary Caught in the Net, however, #annaismissing is an accurate portrayal of what teens are likely to encounter every day while online in 2023.
This kind of no-nonsense suspense movie is largely absent from the contemporary Czech film scene, but #annaismissing is fully committed to its genre underpinnings. This one isn’t just a good Czech thriller but a good thriller by any measure, and deserves recognition beyond the country’s borders.