As the advances in technology go from strength to strength filmmakers are taking the opportunity to create movies through the eye of a computer screen; a trend which is becoming a lot more common. Mostly used to instill terror and violence in the bloodthirsty or supernatural form – most recently in the form of Unfriended – Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching plays on a more realistic theme. Raising the question of how well do we actually know our own children? And most importantly how safe are they on the dark world wide web and its social platforms?
Widower, David Kim (John Cho) is raising his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) alone, but like most teenage/parent relationships there is a slight tension between the pair. Having last seen his daughter via a Facetime call in which she tells him she will be out late studying at her friends for her biology final. During the night Margot frantically makes three calls to David but he misses them all, when he wakes up the next morning, his daughter is missing. With the continuing seriousness of the case, Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) takes a personal interest in the case and suggests that David explore Margot’s online life to unearth any clues to her disappearance.
Never stepping out from behind the computer, phone or security camera screens, Chaganty builds the tension slowly but surely with an exceptional performance by the ever-versatile John Cho. As David delves deeper into his daughter’s online life, the painful realisation that he doesn’t really know his daughter at all is etched across the developing stress on his face and his frustration culminating in a very public meltdown as he searches for answers. Chaganty also uses a number of twists to mislead and take the plot down a few dead-end routes. Ones that are all too valid in the pitfalls children of all ages could fall into. Even though this is cleverly written and executed with precision and detail, its conclusion is fairly predictable and plays with troupes we have seen all too often in thrillers of this kind. However, it never vies away from the thrilling apprehension that has been built with intelligent confidence from its opening scene.
Chaganty also uses technology as a positive image, not only is it the source of the life that David’s daughter kept secret, it’s also home to the opening family life montage. In the touching sequence made up of video clips and photos, we get an insight into the family life they had together before David lost his wife and Margot her mother; and that bond that was built between Father and Daughter. It’s a gentle reminder that there are two sides to advancing technology, one that is home to the rekindling of good memories in times of darkness.
John Cho leads and carries this film like his own personal project, his performance as a distraught father, paired with a smart plot has turned this kind of filmmaking on its head. Once associated as a cheap, questionable and laughable form of visual storytelling, Searching provides the reprieve with fresh hope.
Searching hits cinemas August 31.