Searching: Movie Review

searching-posterI admit that recently, I’m guilty of only relying on streaming services like Netflix, iflix and Fox Plus to catch up on movies that I haven’t caught on their regular run but so far, its working for me. Last night, I got to watch John Cho’s complete evolution into a serious actor in the indie film “Searching” and it was a revelation indeed of Cho’s amazing acting chops to carry the entirety of the movie on his shoulders with the aid of cellphone and web cameras alone.

Synopsis: After the death of his wife Pam (Sara Sohn), David Kim (John Cho) and his daughter Margot (Michelle La) struggle to move forward with their lives and return to normal, dealing with their grief in different ways. When Margot suddenly disappears without a word, John takes it upon himself to track his daughter down through her social media accounts and investigate her mysterious disappearance together with police detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing).

“Searching” is a testament that filmmakers don’t really need a huge budget to produce a good movie. This film, written by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian was directed by Chagantry on a flimsy $1 million budget and blew audiences away when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival for good reason.

BETTER THAN ANY DETECTIVE. A parent’s determination and tenacity in finding a lost offspring is far more effective than any investigator’s drive to crack the case. 

“Searching” explored the depth of creativity when instead of dazzling audiences with state of the art cinematography, it mostly relied on smartphone cameras, web cams, CCTV footage and youtube videos to take a journey with a distraught father seeking desperately for his lost daughter. But before everything unfolds, it lays out the backstory by using home videos and smartphone images to recreate the feeling of family that was stolen from the Kims when Pam passed away. It actually felt like the opening montage of Disney’s Up in its effectiveness.

With the dramatic aspect of the film out of the way, it gets down to the nitty gritty of the search. The sequence of events and the manner in which it was presented, mostly through desktop and laptop screen monitors, and Facetime chats was so reflective of a typical search that audiences can immediately relate to David’s plight.

The movie involved audiences in David’s ordeal, revealing the list of suspects in “real time” as he scrolled through his daughter’s text messages and social media history, discovering secrets that his daughter has been keeping from him as well as getting to know her so called friends with each conversation and web chat. The thriller escalates with new information presented.

WORST NIGHTMARE. Finding out that your child is not exactly as she appears to be is a parent’s worse nightmare, as David realizes when she checks his daughter’s laptop.

David gets more panicked with every lead, and it was a perfectly natural reaction. After all he was living a nightmare of finding out a different facet of his daughter and the fear of the worst things that can happen to his 16 year old. Audiences can definitely relate to this fear. In the systematic revelation of clues and bread crumbs, audiences feel like part of the search and when the twists are unraveled, there is a sense of familiarity.  Its like a light bulb suddenly blinks. Everything clicks and audiences will have a sense of accomplishment in “helping” David crack the case.

John Cho was amazing in this movie. Nowhere can Harold (from Harold and Kumar) of the MILF guy (from American Pie) be found in this guy with the amount of intensity he portrayed in this film. He was the epitome of a harrowed father who will do anything to find his daughter and the sincerity in his portrayal is just so effective. There was a certain subtlety and genuineness in his depiction of his character’s plight that will connect with audiences on a very deep level.

The film also shone the spotlight on the role of social media as a way to connect to their peers and share their feelings. It tackles the issue of technology as a bane and as a boon as well as the dangers of ineracting with total strangers online. It was also quick to point out how social media can be used to court public favor and flip opinion by twisting a few information or just by posting a single meme. I truly felt for John when he was made a fodder of internet ridicule because he did not act in a the way a grieving father should, plain and simple.

Yet, his steadfast commitment and belief that his daughter is still out there sends a strong message about a parent’s love. This also rings true for his eventual adversary and their parallel plights cleverly demonstrates the extent that parents will go through to protect their offspring.

Searching was anything but flashy. It was simple. It was subtle. It was creative. It was brave. It had a clear direction in mind, and it was to tell this intense thriller that relied on substance than style (although I was a big fan of this filmmaking technique as well). It tackled important topics like grief and connections and in all of these, it managed to keep audiences well involved in every aspect of the story and blow them away with the ending. If that isn’t successful filmmaking, I don’t know what is.