Searching is a movie about a father, David Kim (John Cho) whose daughter goes missing, so he begins a frantic search for her. Where this movie differs, is that we, the audience, view the movie through screens – computer screens, phone screens, Youtube, news reports and even security cameras. This is a movie that most accurately reflects our screen-life right now, and you know what? It’s brilliant.
For a movie focused on screens, the director and the cast and the story still have such an intense emotional impact. The movie begins with an FYI of sorts, setting up where David and Margot (his 16 year old daughter) are in their lives by showing family photos and family videos taken of Margot and Pam, her mum and David’s wife – who eventually through hospital photos, and emails of test results, we see was diagnosed with lymphoma.
But life has to go on, even when you’re fighting cancer. We see Pam teach Margot piano, and David searches for information on Google on how to live with lymphoma as a family and Margot marks the dates in their family calendar of when her mum is coming home – until she deletes the entry.
Very effectively, in the space of a few minutes, the movie sets up a loving family life for the Kims, and then shows the grief they still feel when David types out a message to Margot telling her her mother would proud of her… and then deletes it.
It’s a mesmerising opening, but when the movie begins proper, everything goes up a notch.
Like I said, the audience views the movie through screens, so for all of it John Cho is centre stage, his face showing every emotion of a father losing his shit as he begins to realise his daughter is missing, and that he really doesn’t actually know her any longer.
In an effort to help the detective – Vick (Debra Messing) – on her investigation, he goes into Margot’s laptop, and into her social media and email and realises the truth of his daughter – that she’s alone, that’s she’s still grieving for her mother and trying to find a connection out there in the internet that she doesn’t have at home or anywhere else in her life. He doesn’t know her, but he will find her – and he is relentless in his search.
And yes, the movie conveys that determination, and his fear so wonderfully. I particularly liked how he tracked down a 17 year old asshole – you know the kind who trolls posts on facebook of news reports? And someone films him fighting with this kid at a movie theatre and puts it up on youtube – pretty reflective of our smartphone of life, don’t you think? And it absolutely makes the point of David’s desperation and fear in a few short seconds.
The movie isn’t done with the audience in the innovative way it’s filmed – there are twists in the tale, the kind that left me on the edge of my seat, mouth slightly open going what-the what.
I went in expecting a thriller, but I got so much more with this movie — from the innovative way it’s put together, while still retaining such an emotional impact and the commentary on our lives today … this is one of the most impressive movies I’ve seen in a long time. Go see it. GOOO.