If you’ve been complaining about how Hollywood has run out of ideas, go watch Searching. Want to see a film that constantly keeps you guessing? Go watch Searching. Does watching a film that pushes the boundaries of how a story can be told sound appealing? Go watch Searching. Is supporting a high-quality Hollywood product that’s a step forward for inclusiveness and representation important? If yes, go watch Searching.
Still not convinced? Let’s dig in and unpacked what makes this film so great. John Cho plays David Kim. After David’s 16-year old daughter goes missing, he decides to enlist a top resource in tracking down her location – her laptop. In a bold and creative style choice appropriate for our age, the entire film is shown through screens. The narrative unravels through conversations and the internet on laptops, phones and news footage. 2014’s Unfriended went for a similar stylistic choice but made it feel like a gimmick. It feels incredibly natural here. The screens are as much a character and are integral in getting to the center of the case. There is enough variety in the way they’re used that it never feels stale. Production values are kept high enough that it consistently feels like you’re watching a top tier movie and not a TV-film like it did with Unfriended.
Along with this unique style choice that’s a true achievement of editing (you must see it to believe it), the film also gets everything else right. Performances across the board are earnest and convincing. John Cho slips effortlessly into the central character and plays all the emotional beats well. Michelle La, who plays his daughter Margot makes a strong feature film debut. Debra Messing, playing the local detective assigned to the case also has some riveting scenes and leaves a mark.
The narrative unfolds at a brisk pace over the films 100-minute duration. It does a fantastic job of leading you down one way and then flipping on you to constantly challenge your expectations. I was hooked from start to finish and could not guess until the very end what was going on. When the film does reveal its cards, it ties up all loose threads perfectly and makes you wonder how you didn’t catch it all along. The suspense and thrill factor are consistently high. Humor is not something you’d expect from a film of this nature. It’s rare, but really works in the few moments that it is employed, with the whole theater including myself bursting out into laughter.
The film makes endless interesting observations on how the internet is changing and shaping our culture. What makes these poignant is that they’re all made subtly and naturally through the course of the narrative and never in a preachy way. In a film so bold and unconventional with so many moving parts, much can go wrong. It is truly to the directors credit that it all comes together so wonderfully. Aneesh Chaganty has done a phenomenal job and I look forward to seeing what else he has in store for us in years to come.
Searching is original, moving, well-acted and memorable. It is a film that has high ambitions and accomplishes them all. It ends what was already a strong summer on a high note and is among my favorites of 2018 so far. Go find Searching at a cinema near you this weekend, you will not regret it!