Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, Searching follows David Kim trying to find his daughter Margot that goes missing one day. Despite the help from law enforcement, David investigates the case by himself using just the Internet, Margot’s Laptop, and his own wits.
I feel guilty for watching this movie so late. I’d heard the hype around it but never really took it seriously to give it a chance. Better late than never, I guess. Now more than ever before, we have had some incredible debutant filmmakers. The filmmaking prowess on display looks like it comes from experts in the craft and certainly not from newcomers. In a weird way, watching Searching (2018) after Run (2020) almost feels like a more natural progression. The latter does feel a little less original and unique in retrospect when compared to the experimental debut. Movies like Searching remind me how creative film as an art form can be and how there really are no norms to it. It’s a film that’s so confident with its way of storytelling that it almost overshadows any minor faults the plot may have.
Searching is told entirely through the lens of technology. Characters almost always interact through video calls and even if they are in the same room, it’s shown almost like CCTV Footage. Exposition is handled via browsing news online, watching YouTube videos, digging through search histories, stalking on social media, etc. You get the idea. Instead of characters moving around, it’s mostly a cursor on the screen. Some moments are given weight with David’s reactions just via his idle face cam. Yes, face cam feeds aren’t visible unless they’re being used but for the purpose of entertainment, it’s fair. In fact, they shot all of the ‘acting scenes’ in just 13 days. Rest all of it is great animations of windows in computer screens moving around with information and videos. Searching is just well immersed in technology and it just makes excellent use of it.
As for the script, it’s practically flawless with its use of time, making good use of nearly every minute. Not a single scene jumps to attention that probably felt unnecessary. Further, all twists and turns aren’t without ample foreshadowing and are for the most part very plausible. This is a very well thought out and well-executed script that can grab you very early on and won’t let go till the credits roll. It feels like a long time since I experienced something like it. A huge part of that is also John Cho as David Kim. A father who’s sincerely trying hard to be a protective father while also giving his teenage daughter the space she needs. Not to forget the frustration he goes through this entire journey. Cho’s earnest performance adds considerable emotional weight to all the events that unfold.
What doesn’t work
Not all is perfect though. The final reveal is probably the only one that doesn’t land perfectly. Not due to a lack of foreshadowing but just a lack of plausibility. It’s by no means impossible but is still very improbable especially considering how huge Margot’s disappearance story becomes on the Internet. Once that disbelief breaks, it makes it difficult to believe other smaller related events. It’s not a huge deal and in the face of everything else that works well, I didn’t mind overlooking it.
Searching (2018) is the epitome of experimental filmmaking that’s not just confident with its mode of storytelling but is also highly engaging due to Aneesh Chaganty’s clever script. Despite some plot conveniences, it manages to keep its twists exciting and emotionally powerful thanks to a heartwarming performance from John Cho.