Film Review: Searching

Frances Winston reviews Searching, a missing person film with a difference

Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty – Starring: John Cho, Debra Messing

Missing person thrillers are ten a penny so it’s difficult to put a new spin on them, but here, director Chaganty does his best by telling the whole story from the perspective of a computer and phone screen.

Yes, you heard me right. Every single scene in this film is shown on a screen (while you watch the screen). It uses WhatsApp and text messages for exposition, and FaceTime calls, webcams and even YouTube footage are exploited to the max.

Cho plays David Kim, whose world is shattered when his daughter, Margo, goes missing. Detective Rosemary Vick (Messing) is assigned to the case, and between the two of them they attempt to find out what has happened to the missing teen.

Storywise, there’s nothing terribly original. We’ve all seen this before. While there is a twist, it is one you can see coming a mile away, and ordinarily, there would be nothing terribly special about Searching.

But it is the execution that makes this interesting. It completely exploits our use of technology as a form of communication. From the opening scenes where we see David’s wife setting up her computer (via the computer screen) and uploading photos of her daughter, to the closing exchange done via messenger, every single scene is shot using the sort of technology we are all exposed to on a daily basis.

At times, there are several “windows” open on the “computer” so we get to see different perspectives, and it very cleverly finds ways to move the plot along, even though you wouldn’t think there would be cameras present at certain moments. It is akin to a new take on the “found footage” format that was so popular a few years ago.

It helps that the characters are well-rounded, and that Cho is a fine actor who gives a great performance. At times it does feel too “busy” – especially if you’ve already been looking at a computer screen all day when you sit down to this. But it is also compelling, and you want to see where it goes.

Shot conventionally, this would be just an average thriller. But the style is engaging enough to keep viewers interested till the end. I’m not sure we are going to see a glut of movies utilising this style, but it works here beyond the novelty value, and will really make you stop and think about just how much of your day-to-day movements are documented electronically.

In Cinemas Now!

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