Solving a case using only the latest technology and platforms sounds like something that’s been done before (anyone remember Unfriended 2015?) but this new take on the darker side of the internet just might surprise you. In his feature debut at just 27 years of age director Aneesh Chaganty might know better than anyone how young adults survive in this day of smartphones, laptop screens, surveillance, and browsers; using all this lifeless technology to create an edge-of-your-seat thriller with a human core. Enter the movie Searching.
John Cho (best known for the Harold and Kumar franchise) plays widower David Kim who lives with his 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) in San Jose. When she doesn’t return home one night the panic of a parent sets in and kickstarts events that brings Detective Rosemary Vick (played by Debra Messing of Will & Grace) into the mix.
Trawling through text, video messaging, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Tumblr they interlace the mystery, as her father hacks her computer to contact friends; piecing together her last movements and possibly current whereabouts. Possibly without meaning to he delves into who his daughter might really be under the surface of family life, with a few revelations surfacing that really pushes the question - how well do you know someone?
Throughout the investigation so many thoughts play themselves out: was she catfished, kidnapped, murdered? Did she take her own life? Was it someone she knew or did she simply run away? Points are elegantly made about online culture with ‘tending hashtags’ like #FindMargot, and how people can really be two-faced when it comes to the online world. Chaganty skilfully uses Margot’s personal video library to show how her happy life collapsed after her mother died and how easy it was to keep up pretences; like most of us would do to not add more stress or sadness to our family’s lives.
Filmed through phones, laptops, Twitter and Facebook platforms, video streaming and “televised news”; like so many almost docufilm-like movies this could have been a hit or miss situation but it surprised with twists that will keep you guessing. The clues are there for people with a keen eye and good memory but when you’re wrapped up in the story its hard to remain focused on anything else other than what’s happening in the moment. As the movie peaked the momentum wasn’t lost and carries you from beginning to end with enough heart-string pulling to get you involved so that all the screens blend away into the background.
This movie really gets you thinking about the price we pay for living on our screens, a disconnect from those closest to us. Is the price of this platformed life really worth it? Should there be a return to family discussions and tech-free time in the home? Searching leaves you with a thrill and maybe some questions that might keep you awake at night.
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