There’s been a fair smattering of internet based thrillers over the last few years, movies such as Unfriended, that take the concept of the found footage genre to even more limited places. It’s never really been a sub-genre I’ve ever had much interest of visiting but Searching, the latest of these kinds of films, changed my mind in a big way.
Daniel Kim is a loving father but ever since his wife succumbed to cancer he’s been closed off. Unbeknownst to him gulf has opened between him and Margot, his 16 year old daughter. One night Margot simply disappears, with no clue as to where she may have gone. After the police are called and a detective assigned to the case, Daniel trails through his daughter’s online accounts, desperately searching for clues to his child’s location and is dismayed to find that maybe he doesn’t know his daughter as much as he thought.
The first thing you notice about Searching Is, of course, the gimmick. The entire film is seen solely through the screen of a home computer via texts, E-mails, home videos and lots and lots of FaceTiming and while at first the constant cursor clicking is a little distracting, you soon get used to it and at least no one takes time out for a quick Pornhub break…
The history of the Kim family is succinctly told through a series of videos taking you through everything from Margot’s school photos and music recitals to her mother courageously fighting her illness in a sort of a greatest hits package that neatly dances around any character building issues the format may preclude. As the film goes on and Daniel gets ever more desperate, the drop-down windows containing the action gets ever more claustrophobic, a father’s terror about what may have happened to his daughter funneled through a rectangle half the size of a cinema screen. It works REALLY well.
However, a gimmick is only as good as the people pulling it off and thankfully John Cho proves he’s come a Hell of a long way from Harold And Kumar. His very effective performances could’ve been swallowed up amongst all the Googling and password cracking but he anchor’s the whole film with aplomb. Capable support comes from Debra Messing as the detective doing her best to sort things out without a single trace of Will And Grace.
The script also keeps what could be quite a limited story light on it’s feet, drip feeding us twists and turns at an intelligent rate, never over-egging the pudding or jumping the shark.
Any down points to Searching will depend on the viewer, as the computer screen truly is one of the least cinematic things in creation, fans of sweeping camerawork and fast-paced action may find themself figiting in their seat about half way through but the measured performances and perky pace should counteract the worst of this.
Note should be made too as this is a wide release film with an Asian-American lead, something that, along with the upcoming Crazy Rich Asians is somewhat overdue.
But politics aside, if you’re looking for a taunt, original thriller, Searching is definitely one too look for.