Searching

searching_ver2STARS3.5Searching is a tale about what happens when a father (John Cho) discovers his 16-year-old daughter (Michelle La) has gone missing after a late night study group. David’s hunt for Margot completely relies on the internet in his quest to uncover her whereabouts. He soon realizes that she had a whole other life he never knew.

Searching is the debut feature from writer/director Aneesh Chaganty. The drama is shot from the point-of-view of computer screens.  Oh, it might be relevant to mention that Chaganty used to work for Google.  The presentation is innovative, however, he didn’t invent the idea. The approach is not unlike the technique used in Leo Gabriadze’s 2014 horror movie Unfriended. Nonetheless, Searching should definitely get kudos for exploiting the idea in a captivating manner.  Not surprisingly Russian-Kazakh director Timur Bekmambetov is a producer on both films.  Using an integration of Apple’s FaceTime and iMessage through his computer and then employing other social networking services like Facebook and Instagram, David tries to piece together the details of what happened to her.  All the while we witness his investigation via his monitor.

Searching brilliantly lays the emotional groundwork for our connection to this family right from the start.   Within the opening minutes (à la Up) we learn that mom Pamela (Sara Sohn) had been suffering from lymphoma.  She has recently passed on leaving father and daughter still grieving her loss.  Their dynamic is key, as there appears to be a somewhat uneasy relationship between the two.  Father’s constant admonitions for her to take out the trash gently underscores a hovering mentality.  Then, late one night her phone calls to him go unanswered while he sleeps.  The next day he returns her missed calls with no response.  This inspires a fear that is every parent’s worst nightmare.  He needs to determine who saw her last.  Her study group confirms she left early.  Then he calls her piano teacher and is shocked to learn she quit her lessons months ago.   Apparently, she had deposited the money for those classes in a secret bank account instead.  This is but the beginning of several revelations that the daughter he thought he knew was a stranger to him.  He contacts the authorities.  Officer Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is the detective that takes his case.

Searching is masterfully crafted.  Yet, I did find the gimmick of everything taking place on a computer screen to be a contrivance that somewhat hindered the exhibition.  The constraint was unnerving but in a claustrophobic style that didn’t serve the drama.  I would’ve preferred the expansive cinematography of a traditional narrative.  Director Alfred Hitchcock did this sort of thing to perfection.  Still, the screenplay co-written by Aneesh Chaganty and producer Sev Ohanian is clearly inspired by the master filmmaker’s oeuvre.  That’s a compliment of the highest order.  I adore Hitchcock and this production should bear a mention when discussing films he has inspired.  Searching is extremely well designed.  The chronicle gently unfolds slowly disseminating clues as the story sees fit.  The discovery of information is fascinating. At one point he unearths a questionable connection having to do with his brother Peter (Joseph Lee).  Figuratively, a lot of bombs are dropped.  I was riveted throughout the entire saga, but the ending is completely mind-blowing.  I can’t even begin to explain how one explosive revelation subverts another in the final 30 minutes.  I won’t even try.  Just go see Searching.  You’ll be so glad you did.

08-30-18

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8 Responses to “Searching”

  1. I really enjoyed this. I agree, the last 30 minutes had me on the edge of my seat. 3 1/2 stars

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Eric Robert Wilkinson Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree this is a riveting ultimately touching thriller even… and I’m still reeling a bit from the cumulative effect… But I disagree that the traditional narrative film style would be preferable. In this case form supported content and vice versa. It was as much about how internet life in the information age subverts and informs (for lack of a better term) our expectations of each other and how media whether social news or otherwise affects us as a society yet zeroes in on thos one case to make it movingly relatable and human

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    • It’s still a gimmick. I think it actually hindered the storytelling in a couple parts. In particular, they actually have to cheat the idea when David gets into his car and drives to a particular location.

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      • Eric Wilkinson Says:

        They definitely stretch the “gimmick” to a point but I thought it worked as a whole – splendidly so – and I agree with the reviews I’ve read comparing the opening sequence of the family through time and social media/technological evolutions to be very evocative of UP and scarcely less devastating in the end

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes. Whether intentional or not, UP also efficiently and effectively presented familual bonds in very much the same way.

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  3. I was really impressed with the amount of tension created in this movie. It was an emotional affair almost right out of the gate. So much attention to detail.

    Liked by 1 person

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