Out this week is Aneesh Chaganty’s film Searching starring John Cho as a father trying to unravel the mystery behind his missing daughter.
The film opens with a montage thrown together within a computer. The audience learns about the formative years of the Kim family. Through videos and photo’s we learn much about the family. The audience is introduced to David (John Cho), his wife Pam (Sara Sohn) and daughter Margot (Michelle La). You learn much about them, their likes, hobbies, and you watch them all grow. The montage ends with Margot in high school and sadly Pamela having passed away from cancer. From there the story begins in earnest.
David and Margot have a warm relationship, having a subtle yet genuine back and forth (thanks to Cho and La’s performances). It’s fleeting though as they have a few short scenes before Margot seemingly disappears off the face of the planet. It becomes all the more maddening when David learns through his investigation that everything he thought he knew about his daughter was false. With the help from Detective Vick (a suitably sombre Debra Messing) he hopes to better understand his daughter as he tries to find her.
Director Aneesh Chaganty has crafted a cracking film with Searching. It is filled with potent performances from its intimate cast especially Cho who gives a subtle but moving portrayal of a grieving father. The world he lives in is also filled with compelling bit players in this one man show.
There is also the technical aspects that I found fascinating. For example, the whole film is shot through various means of social media. The tricks utilised mean that there is no traditional camera style everything is shown on a computer screen, a mobile phone or a tablet. Most of the time this works with the film injecting these into the narrative organically with examples like Facetime via messenger and Skype. This does bring an issue into the film however as there are so many product placements being thrown all over the place. From Mac to Apple, and even Norton, everything is fair game. It detracts from the narrative of the film, unfortunately, due to the flagrancy of the product placement.
What the film ultimately excels at is the human story at the centre of its narrative. Following David, as he tries to find his daughter is highly engaging. The ups and downs the story takes the audience during Searching are highly engaging even if the film takes something of a jump the shark moment in the third act. This is not where the issues end unfortunately as the film loses some of its legitimacy as it doesn’t know when to end. There are two separate occasions where the film could have ended and had a huge impact. Instead, it wraps up a little too neatly when it comes to its climax.
Searching is an interesting film. It deals with so many issues that people, society, and mainly parents can have with technology regardless of your supposed understanding. With a strong emotional core, thanks to Cho’s performance and a genuine tense story Searching is a film you should search out at your local cinema.