In this hi-tech digital world where every move we make and every selfie we take is seemingly accompanied by its own digital footprint, is it truly possible to vanish without a trace? How far can we trust the identities of the people we meet online? And when a father tries to find out what’s happened to his missing daughter, will the secrets contained in her laptop reveal he didn’t really know his daughter at all?
That’s the nightmare faced by widower David Kim (John Cho) when his teenage daughter Margot disappears and the only clues to her fate may lie in her social media and email accounts… along with the growing awareness that Margot may not be the confident, popular young woman her father thought she was. Even when the sympathetic Detective Vick (a brilliantly cast Debra Messing) is assigned to the case and more and more of the cyber barriers are broken, the truth of Margot’s hidden life just ties Kim up in even tighter knots. The daughter who was dedicated to her studies and her weekly piano lesson, who he tried so hard to protect from the death of her mother, is suddenly a stranger to him. And it seems like the mystery of Margot will never be solved because, as the hours pass and all of Kim’s and Detective Vick’s investigations lead to a dead end, the odds that she will eventually be found alive dwindle away even further.
The brilliance of Searching is that it takes everything a parent fears the most and then, as the thread of the mystery slowly unravels, it escalates the tension by making the central character question everything he thought he knew about the one person in his life he should know the best. It’s a terrific example of ‘less is more’ filmmaking, relating everything via laptop POVs, Facetime messaging, Skype calls and TV newsbytes, and focusing down on a small ensemble cast to tell a story which - in the hands of a more seasoned director with access to a blockbuster budget - could have just turned out to be another run-of-the-mill missing person thriller.
In fact, it’s this in your face low-rent approach that really makes Searching special, because writer-director Aneesh Chaganty and writer-producer Sev Ohanian avoid turning internet technology into yet another horror movie bogeyman, and instead use it as both an emotional device and a reliable/unreliable narrator. Searching is a film that concentrates solely on the performances and the storytelling and is all the more effective and memorable because of it.
Sony’s new Blu-ray is no slouch either. The video and audio are great and the bonus features are well worth diving into - but not until after you’ve seen the film. Very highly recommended.
Special Features: Changing The Language Of Cinema, Update Username: Cast and Characters, Searching For Easter Eggs, Audio Commentary with Aneesh Chaganty & Sev Ohanian
SEARCHING / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: ANEESH CHAGANTY / SCREENPLAY: ANEESH CHAGANTY, SEV OHANIAN / STARRING: JOHN CHO, DEBRA MESSING, JOSEPH LEE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW