“The kid on the milk carton” has become a weary pop-culture punch line, but once, it was a desperate gambit to try to find someone, anyone, who had seen Johnny Gosch. A 12-year-old paperboy, he disappeared from a sidewalk in West Des Moines, Iowa, in 1982 while delivering the Sunday edition. With Who Took Johnny, directors David Beilinson, Michael Galinsky, and Suki Hawley take on a case that was among the first of its kind to make national news, not least of all because his parents pushed their quest for answers long after the initial news-cycle interest died down.
Using an adroit mix of the typical contemporary-doc array of talking heads, archival images, and onscreen graphics, Who Took Johnny lays out the events, establishes the impact of the case locally and nationally, and advances a disturbing theory about what happened to him. (Other boys fitting Johnny’s general description disappeared from the area in years to come.)