“Searching” follows the story of John Cho (David Kim), a widowed father with a teenage daughter named Margot (Michelle La). Despite living in the same household, the two have a distant relationship with technology being their main course of communication. One night, Margot tells her father that she’ll be out for an all-night study group. However, the next day, John discovers his daughter never returned home. It isn’t long before he comes to the horrifying realization that Margot is missing. With Detective Vick (Debra Messing) working the case and covering the fieldwork, John takes it upon himself to pick up the trail as he sifts through his daughter’s computer. But as John delves into Margot’s internet history and personal files, he’ll come to face the harsh truth that he may not have known his daughter as well as he thought.
“Searching” is another feature film to come from the Sundance Film Festival. Despite possessing such a simple title, this is one of the most original films I’ve seen this year! It should come as no surprise given that the movie left the festival with not one, but two awards: the Audience Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.
On paper, this movie might not seem interesting to some readers. Any fan of mystery thrillers has probably already seen, read, or heard just about a dozen stories about a parent searching for their missing child. Well, where “Searching” stands tall from those other stories is thanks to two key factors: Mystery and Narrative Presentation.
Starting with the mystery, I can’t say too much out of fear of revealing specifics, but this is one of those films that reward viewers for paying attention to the story and details. This is a well-crafted mystery that feels like an authentic story, and one that doesn’t insult the audience’s intelligence. That’s another key factor here: feel. This feels like something that could happen and is treated as such.
There’s no need to suspend your disbelief here. This isn’t one of those movies where an average-joe parent is pushed to the edge and becomes an action-hero. No, the film handles the plot in a realistic manner in how a parent would actually search for their missing child—sifting through their child’s computer and internet history for clues, making phone calls, charting maps, etc.
When you get down to it, “Searching” is every parent’s worst nightmare. If a child goes missing because of something from school, then it’s easy to narrow down and pick up a trail. A child goes missing because of something regarding the internet, however, then you’re looking at a thin trail with multiple possible sceneries, and each is worse than the last. And we follow John Cho as he explores websites he’s never even heard of just to find some trail that’ll lead him to his daughter.
Last but not least, there’s the narrative presentation of the movie. This’ll be difficult to describe without having the visuals to show, but if you want to know more, I’d suggest looking up the trailer to “Searching” and you’ll get a clear idea about how the film is presented. Basically, this whole movie is shown not from a camera that follows the father, but from a desktop computer. That’s right, the narrative is done through visuals and videos on computer monitors and phone cameras. The only time we ever see the characters are through video recordings, video chats, and text messaging.
What I love most about this style of presentation, is that it strongly follows the rule of “Show Don’t Tell.” We are with the father and seeing what he sees as we watch him explore files, read profiles, study photos, and search websites to track down his daughter. Which means the movie is letting us—the audience—piece the mystery together in our heads so that when the “eureka” moments happen, we’ll experience them as well.
I do have one warning to make, however. If you’re a moviegoer that has difficulty reading text on a screen, then you may have trouble because over a quarter of this movie relies on viewers being able to read what the main character is typing or when he’s reading text messages; so fair warning.
“Searching” is rated PG-13 for thematic content, language, along with some drug and sexual references. If you love a good mystery that lets you use your head as the narrative unfolds, then “Searching” is the film for you and an absolute ‘must-see!’ It’s a gripping thriller with a clever and original presentation, along with a satisfying mystery. What’s most interesting about this feature film, however, is that it’s also the debut of Aneesh Chaganty—the writer and director for “Searching.” Well, what a high note to debut on because the final score for “Searching” is an astounding 9 out of 10!
Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.