SONY PICTURES RELEASING (2018)

 

Director: Aneesh Chaganty

 

Starring: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Sara Sohn

Is this really the start of a new genre of film?

 

From the minds behind the Unfriended series comes Searching, the story of a desperate father utilising every form of modern media and technology in order to locate his missing teenage daughter. Similarly to those horror flicks, this movie isn’t shot in standard fashion, instead relying on internet videos, newscasts, social media and FaceTime (amongst others) in order to frame the story and the characters within. It’s an interesting concept and, vitally, one that Chaganty gets just right for the majority of the movie.

John Cho assumes the role of David Kim, the single father at the heart of the story, and is marvellous with his range of emotions – acting mainly with his face and body language to sell the crushing grief he would be feeling in the situation. After excelling in last year’s Columbus (and a leading role in The Exorcist TV series), Cho’s star continues to rise and his emotive performance here will only further the ascendency – no longer is he just MILF Guy #2. Debra Messing and Michelle La are also excellent in their roles of varying screen time and the father-daughter relationship is well-written and utterly believable.

 

The devastating opening montage is certainly different to the standard – we blast through fifteen years of the Kim family beginning with the birth of Margot via Windows 98 footage, old Yahoo accounts, the evolution of YouTube and Facebook and family videos stored on the hard drive until its conclusion. It’s a compelling way of allowing for exposition and also making the audience aware of what they’re in store for. The majority of need for the “gimmick” was necessary and transitioned well, with only a few exceptions that didn’t feel entirely organic. The split screens and various tabs open on the browsers David uses feel like chapters of a story that have been visited or are yet to be revealed and helped add to the mystery that was well-written in Searching. The first half is slower and more ponderous as David’s predicament is set up and his steps to begin his search take place. Once the second half bursts into life, the pace picks up and the thriller aspect rises to the fore. That said, if you’re expecting true heart-pounding thrills then you won’t find them here.

 

The keen focus on the modern world is obvious throughout – peers that previously discarded Margot are suddenly proclaiming themselves as her best friend online for likes and views, thoughts and prayers are spread, hashtags created and the conspiracy theories that arise in any tragic situation burn through Twitter feeds like a gasoline lit rag. It’s a sometimes seething look at the (vacuous?) world that we now live in and one that should be sadly familiar to anyone watching.

 

At it’s very best, Searching is an inventive and compelling mystery thriller led by the confident and very good John Cho. The frantic nature of the case is captured excellently with the nature of the storytelling and the emotion will wrap you up – especially if you’re a father watching (like me).

August 31st 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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