Black Girl Missing (2023) Movie Ending, Explained

Black Girl Missing

‘Black Girl Missing’ is a Lifetime original film directed by Delmar Washington and written by Kale Futterman. It stars Garcelle Beauvais, Taylor Mosby, Iyana Halley, Cleo Fraser, Linda Park and Jeanette Branch. It is not based on real events but rather takes inspiration from multiple missing cases of colored women, a lot of which remain unsolved owing to media and police indifference.

It’s pretty standard Lifetime fare, made in an unmistakable TV movie style, with bland dialogue and passable performances. That shouldn’t deflect us from the fact that the movie quite proactively tries to raise awareness of the kind of racism that is held to be commonplace in American society, the overreliance on social media, and the importance of noticing the symptoms of mental health problems of people around us.

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Black Girl Missing (2023) Movie Plot & Synopsis:

Lauren and Marley are sisters who have just moved to Blue Valley, Texas. They had lost their father the previous year, and their mother, Cheryl, felt a new beginning was needed for all of them. Cheryl is the Vice-Principal at the local high school. Things have hardly been the way she envisioned them to be, though. Her job is more taxing than any she had had in the past. Marley thinks Blue Valley is a dead-end town with nothing to do, and she has struggled to make friends because she’s the new girl and the Vice-Principal’s daughter. Lauren, who is studying and staying at Canning College, not too far from their home, is unhappy at her institution.

One weekend, when Lauren comes over to stay, she informs her mother that she wishes to drop out as she is depressed and unable to focus on her studies. Cheryl dismisses her depression as spoilt behavior, and this leads to a fight. The fight ends badly because Cheryl brings up her deceased father, and this causes a rift between mother and daughter. Lauren, who seems to have been in contact with some unknown fellow, leaves the house before she is supposed to as a result. For two days, there’s no contact between Cheryl and Lauren, who starts to get worried as the latter’s behavior is highly uncharacteristic of her. Lauren has not been active on social media, where she runs a page talking about beauty and hairstyling.

Soon, Cheryl realizes that Lauren has gone missing. Local authorities seem generally indifferent, and given that she’s an adult who left of her own accord, there’s no crime for them to investigate. The local news channel is not interested in reporting it as they believe there is no story there, to begin with. This systemic racism causes Cheryl to take matters into her own hands, aided by her steadfast younger daughter, Marley. But there’s only so much they can do as all leads are dead ends, be it Lauren’s bullying roommate or her creepy boss at the cafe she worked in.

Who is Jessica Russo?

Jessica Russo is a young white girl from Oregon who went missing around the same time that Lauren did. This has become a news sensation across the country and a ‘rating knockout,’ according to Russ, the head of the local WBBV News. Because of the traction that Jessica’s case gets, local news channels pick her story up and give it coverage round-the-clock, milking their audience’s interest in the developments surrounding the investigation.

News about her is what causes WBBV News to initially not pick up Lauren’s case, despite it being local news and Jessica’s not. Then when they pick it up, they relegate it to a mere mention during the roundup of local news. At the local school, Jessica’s disappearance greatly aggrieves one of the teachers, who wonders what her parents might be going through. Yet, she is barely interested in her colleague undergoing the exact same distress as Jessica’s parents.

Black Girl Missing

Since Jessica is a ‘pretty, blonde girl,’ she’s far more easier to market and useful for exploiting audience sentiments than Lauren. Eventually, we learn that Jessica Russo has returned home. In fact, she had never gone missing but had voluntarily left home. The fact that Jessica could be a runaway is not even something that either the news channels or the people so eagerly interested in her well-being ever considered.

Instead, they even went to the extent of speculating that a serial killer on the loose might have abducted her. On the other hand, Lauren being a runaway is treated as a primary possibility by everyone from the day Cheryl started actively searching for her. Jessica Russo is symbolic of the systemic racism that thwarts the grievances of non-white communities from being heard.

Around the place where Cheryl and her family live, six Black and Brown girls had gone missing in the recent past, about which people had little to no idea, not even Russ, who only learns about it as a story opportunity and that too only because of the number of girls that had gone missing, showing the sheer discrimination meted to non-white people even today.

Was Lauren depressed?

Over the course of ‘Black Girl Missing,’ what becomes evident is that Lauren’s depression was not some ploy or excuse she had devised, as Cheryl had initially thought of it. She speaks of how she cannot focus on her studies and work and always feels tired, which are both symptomatic of depression. Her roommate Annie reveals how a while after joining college, Lauren had become a detached and quiet person, spending all her time in her hostel room, on her phone and computer. It is implied that the loss of her father was a possible cause behind her condition.

On top of her depression was the bullying Lauren had to put up with from Annie, as the latter was troubled by Annie’s constant, gloomy presence in the room. Her boss at the cafe she worked, Eddie, is a predatory individual who harasses his employees, and it’s possible that Lauren had to undergo that too. Hence, a combination of these circumstances shows the severe duress that Lauren had been under, causing her to seek comfort from a stranger online whom she had not even met.

Who are the Netsleuths?

In trying to find a way to help her mother, Marley comes across a website called Netsleuths. It’s an internet community of amateur detectives that conducts online investigations of missing persons, not unlike a Reddit community with specific niche interests. Hacking into social media accounts of victims and perpetrators, tracing devices and their activities, looking into internet histories, and following digital footprints are some of the methods that these people employ in their work. It is not a paid service and runs on the benevolence of its members. Through Netsleuths, Marley finds and befriends Bella Holmes, a 16-year-old tech wizard who plays a crucial role in finding Lauren.

Black Girl Missing (2023) Movie Ending Explained:

Twenty-two days after Lauren goes missing, Annie gets a text from Richard asking her to meet him. Richard is the name the catfish that Lauren was in contact with uses on a dating website where Marley strategically matched with him. She and Bella believe that this unknown fellow (Ian to Lauren) is behind her disappearance. On finding out what Marley is doing, Cheryl is disturbed at first but realizes the importance of her work. She asks Marley to bait him by asking him to meet at a public place where Cheryl will stake him out, follow him, and in doing so, hopefully, find out where Lauren is.

The spot where ‘Richard’ asks Marley to wait turns out to be desolate, and he’s in a pickup truck with a stolen license plate. These become proof of the fact that the fellow is indeed a predator. Cheryl decides to follow the truck and reaches a house in a secluded location. There, she finds Lauren sedated and weak from possibly being abused and drugged for days. The person behind all this (going by names like Ian, Richard, etc.) is a large, middle-aged man whose name isn’t revealed.

He continues chatting with Marley on the dating website, where she sends him a phishing link in the guise of a picture as an apology for not turning up. As soon as he clicks on it, his location is revealed to Bella, and Marley reports this immediately to Detective Dean. At the house, the man gets alerted to Cheryl having broken in and assaults her, but before he can do anything lethal, the police arrive on the scene thanks to Bella.

The man is arrested and revealed to be a serial predator who was behind the disappearance of the six girls in Cheryl’s locality. In the aftermath of Lauren’s safe return, Cheryl appears on a national news channel, speaking about the innumerable Black young girls who have gone missing over the years and have received little media coverage because of their social and racial position.

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Black Girl Missing (2023) Movie Links: IMDb Rotten Tomatoes
Black Girl Missing (2023) Movie Cast: Betsy Baker, Garcelle Beauvais, Jeanette Branch
Where to watch Black Girl Missing
Shahim Sheikh

Shahim aims to be associated with films in some capacity all his life. To him, Welles, Cassevetes, Tarkovsky and Haneke embody why cinema is the greatest of all art forms.