Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Starring John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La
Released August 31st, 2018
David Kim (John Cho) is in a state of panic. His sixteen year old daughter Margot (Michelle La) didn’t come home after last night’s study group and didn’t attend school this morning, either. David calls and texts a few of her friends, but nobody knows where she is. David calls the police. Soon Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), a specialist in missing children, is on the case. She advises David to go through his daughter’s laptop in hopes of finding clues to her whereabouts.
The fact that it’s told entirely through computer, cell phone, and television screens is neat, but Searching is a good film because we care about the characters while the tension rises.
David has raised Margot on his own since the passing of his wife Pamela (Sara Sohn) years ago. We see Pam in home movies and pictures on the laptop. It’s evident David and Margot are still reeling from her death. We follow David via computer screens and cell phones as he travels down a digital rabbit hole of discovery involving Margot’s email and social media accounts, leading him to the realization that he may be more disconnected from his daughter than he thought.
Searching keeps you on the edge of your seat because of the compelling dramatic work of John Cho, who is in most every scene. As he proved in his role as a father figure in the second season of the television show The Exorcist, Cho is the kind of kindhearted, protective father we all wish we had. I saw a screening of Searching in St. Louis and as the end credits rolled, a section of the audience broke out in applause upon seeing the name of editor Nick Johnson. I’m guessing he has a St. Louis connection. I hope he reads this review. Hey Nick, you did a fine job.
Producer Timur Bekmambetov is clearly intrigued with films that take advantage in the highly connected computer world we live in, having worked on such films as Unfriended and its sequel Unfriended: Dark Web, and Profile, which featured a similar gimmick to Searching. But of course a gimmick isn’t enough to sustain a motion picture. Writer/Director Aneesh Chaganty and his co-screenwriter Sev Ohanian understand that great movies with gimmicks are great movies regardless of the way they are told; that is to say they feature strong writing, performances, and direction.
The fact that it’s told entirely through computer, cell phone, and television screens is neat, but Searching is a good film because we care about the characters while the tension rises. With a smart script, clever editing, a strong lead performance from John Cho, and more red herrings than a Communist supermarket, Searching is a thrilling mystery with a conclusion I defy you to figure out upon first viewing.