Review Searching (2018): While the presentation using only electronic device screens is a gimmick we’ve seen in Blumhouse horror, Unfriended (2015), Searching is always a Gone Girl as viewed through screen with sense of limitation the size of Rear Window (instead the window is an artificial window—be it browser window or chat window).
It opens with a montage of Kim family’s history as seen via a Windows XP PC from the moment that Margot (Michelle La) was born to a happy Korean-American couple, David (John Cho) and Pam (Sara Sohn). There goes a happy growing-up together montage that kind of reminding me to Up (2009). Yet, it wasn’t long until the tragedy comes. After a series of unanswered phone and FaceTime calls, Margot never shows up. She’s gone, technically missing (soon to be presumed dead?). Through projected screens of iPhones, PC and MacBooks, David browses through social media, search engine and every resource he can find on the web to find his missing child.
As much as Searching focuses on the social media era (full of spot-on criticism to people’s estranged behavior) as reflected from the presentation, the movie mostly excels as a neat, twist-heavy narrative structure. It’s effortless to simply flaunt the social media gimmick in this kind of story, but structuring the world, wide, web as a comprehensive, yet non-complicated and utterly heartfelt story is another thing. In this case, director Aneesh Chaganty (a former Google employee himself) and co-writer Sev Ohanian pour more emotion to the story, juxtaposing the IRL emotion to the manipulative internet jungle, than complication albeit the twist-laden stories.
The investigation, although looks mundane at first, is the movie’s strongest point. Echoing what David Fincher & Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl exclaims about how sensationalism has proven to be a irrelevantly relevant part of tragedy, especially in missing person case. When Gone Girl points out mass media as an integral part of this strange issue, Searching emphasizes on the similar issues but from the internet perspective—how people reacts on social media as a missing person case rolls, the suddenly trending hashtag, online backlash to the victim’s family and even social climbing done by closest persons to gain fame by using the tragedy as a catapult. Searching serves those things fresh and hot before our eyes and we can always relate to it.
As the story plays out with our sympathy, Searching injects twists and turns into the story. Beginning with the realization of how estranged David has been with her daughter, whom he thinks he knows best, the movie rolls into a a full-frontal crime-investigation drama when Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) slides in. As the investigation goes, twists and revelations keep popping up on top of each other. Yet, Searching isn’t merely about the twist; it’s about how characters react to each unraveled twist. It’s John Cho’s illuminating performance as a single father who grows from the moment the movie begins until the end.
Again, it’s not the complexity, it’s the movie’s heartfelt emotion which becomes its prowess. Furthermore, John Cho’s absorbing performance helps Searching crafting an emotional rendition of Gone Girl with internet era look.
Mystery, Thriller, Drama Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty Written by: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian Starred by: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Sara Sohn Runtime: 102 mins