Director Aneesh Chaganty makes his directorial debut with Searching. A taut thriller about a father desperately trying to locate his daughter’s whereabouts after she turns up missing.
The unique selling point here is that practically the entire movie is shot through various devices such as Daniel Kim’s (John Cho) computer screen, webcam, iPhone’s, GoPro’s and the like. It’s a very clever albeit incredibly risky feat as the film could have easily become a bit of a gimmick ,or not managed to sustain its run time, but I’m pleased to say that neither are the case here.
We’re introduced to the Kim family in the opening scene, father Daniel, wife Pamela and daughter Margot. Straight away the film establishes it’s storytelling tool by way of a PC; used here to play video files that show Margot as a young child, special family occasions, touching moments and the relationship between her parents too; photo galleries pop up and we get a real insight into the Kim family within the opening few minutes, all told through a screen (of a screen?). As the memories pour out, connecting us to the Kims, we watch as the PC cursor clicks through archival footage of Pamela’s cancer diagnosis, her subsequent battle and her inevitable passing just before Margot enters high school. Searching does an exceptional job here of establishing it’s unique direction, it’s amiable characters and their unfortunate trauma. I was engaged immediately. Jump two years to present day and from this point on, it just ramps up more and more.
During a phone call with her father Daniel, Margot explains that she will need to study well into the night and so she decides to stay over at her friend’s house rather than her own. During the night, Daniel misses a couple of calls from Margot; the next morning when he wakes up he calls back but to no avail. A few more tries, still nothing. Eventually Daniel calls Margot’s piano teacher (she’s played since a very young age) who informs him that she had in fact quit her lessons, six moths prior. This would be disappointing in itself however Daniel had still been giving her $100 frequently for said lessons, leading him to question: where’s the money? After some online detective work he discovers that Margot has been depositing the money into her bank account but suspiciously, a withdrawal of $2500 had been made just days ago. At this point he’s still heard nothing from his daughter and decides to call the police to declare her as missing.
Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case as both she and Daniel scramble to connect the dots. He takes charge by contacting any and every associate of Margot’s whether it be her friends, their parents, whoever he can speak to in order to help piece it all together. This is where the film really shines, Daniel fortunately has some tech savviness to aid his search and in doing so, utilises every application imaginable to create timelines, points of interest, calendars, all manner of techno wizardry to build a picture for both himself and us the audience as we get pulled along for the journey. The actors are convincingly invested as the information unravels and twist develop, it’s worth reiterating that there is no camera trickery or fancy editing for them to fall back on, the actors are having to convey all of their emotions and keep up the pace expected of a thriller, all through the lenses of phones or webcams, it’s a remarkable achievement when you put it into perspective and pays off massively.
Searching is a highly engaging, tense thriller that keeps you glued to it’s many screens from the very beginning, right through to it’s climactic twist. The tools of technology are intelligently used to deliver an experience unlike anything else out there. If you’re deciding on what to watch next, your search is over.
Now streaming on Netflix