There’s a definite gimmick behind Searching, and it’s not even really a new one. The action of the film is confined to what the main character sees through his computer. Using a small screen to craft a big screen experience is hardly a novel idea. Found footage has been a staple of low-budget filmmaking for years, and it’s essentially an older brother to the computertethered internet thrillers that have been popping up recently. Thankfully, Searching rises above cinematic contrivances to deliver a well-executed, engaging story, anchored by an excellent performance by John Cho.
The computers at the film’s center belong to the Kim family. David (Cho) and his teenage daughter, Margot (Michelle La), are still recovering from the recent loss of Margot’s mother to cancer. When Margot goes missing after a late-night study group, David decides to search his daughter’s laptop for answers. Searching seems designed for audiences to sleuth alongside the protagonist. You see all the clues as he does, the action is tightly confined, and there is a very limited pool of suspects. It gives the movie an almost interactive feel.
As fun as it to play digital detective, what makes the story stand out are its human elements. The film’s first scenes play like an internet version of the heartbreaking opening montage in Up. Later, David and Margot’s grief and the strain on their relationship are felt through every unsent text or awkward pause during a FaceTime call. It highlights how a genre that is mostly used for quick scares can tap into deeper emotions, which shouldn’t be surprising considering just how much we connect with others through technology.
Should you see it? Yes, it’s an engaging experience. —S.W.
Viewed at Marcus Des Peres Cinema