A solid thriller that cogently comments on our relarionship with social media.
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Screenplay: Chagamty, Sev Ohanian (My Big Fat Armenian Family)
Cast: John Cho (Star Trek), Debra Messing (The Mothman Prophesies)
Runtime: 1 hr 42 min
by John DeSando
Who would have thought watching computer screens on the big screen could be so engaging and make us identify with characters as we should were there not a computer in sight? Searching is a psychological thriller with a tech underpinning that goes humanly beyond expectations yet satisfying the geek that loves the banks of screens in other more garden-variety thrillers these days.
David (John Cho) and his daughter, Margot (as adult, Michelle La), are close, especially after the death of his wife and her mother, Pamela (Sara Sohn). When Margot goes missing, a full search ensues, headed by a highly competent Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing). David’s discovery that he doesn’t know his daughter as well as he thought is central to the distancing feeling cyber space gives us all.
The unique experience in this film is that the search and the surrounding dramatics are all depicted through the computer screen. For a dramatic experience, nothing is lost to the technology.
As David is an engineer with an expert’s use of the computer, the thrills come through his navigation of the Web mostly the use of Google and social media such as Facebook and Instagram and a fictional streaming site called You Cast. Sometimes he uncovers information, a bit at a time, frequently even more than the police do.
While he gets incrementally and slowly closer to what happened to Margot, the audience is drawn into the bond between the two with a recognition that this could happen to any of us. The opening montage of photos from the family’s halcyon days establishes the film’s dexterity in developing character, even through static images.
In other words, we feel his pain. Searching, however, slips into thriller tropes, none weaker than the “reveal” denouement. Admittedly, freshman director Aneesh Chaganty spends too much time in the setup to the detriment of more time with the investigation, and that ending lets too much plot unveil with dialogue referencing it.
Searching is solid storytelling and satisfying characterization that defy our deadening daily experience in front of a screen.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com