REVIEW — “Searching”
Unfriended made a moderately successful splash when it hit the scene and introduced audiences to a format they weren’t used to seeing when it comes to narrative storytelling – a film that takes entirely on the the screen of a laptop. I enjoyed that film well enough, but I was nearly positive that it would open the floodgates for even more films to be crafted in this design. I was nearly dead-wrong, since all that I’ve seen since then is an Unfriended sequel, and now Searching – which is less of a horror movie as it is a character driven cyber-thriller/drama. This film proves that this format of storytelling is accessible to almost any genre – but most of all it confirms the idea that it can be used to make truly great films.
The film follows David Kim (John Cho) as he frantically tries to find clues on his missing daughter’s computer about where she may possibly be. As he goes deeper and deeper into the abyss that is his daughter’s social media presence, he learns a lot about not only who his daughter really is – but whether or not he had the relationship with her that he thought he did. This film is slightly different than Unfriended, as it jumps from different computer screens, smart phones, and television broadcasts, as well as different points in time throughout. Those minor differences aside, the concept of staying entirely on a monitor or screen of sorts is never broken and remains riveting from beginning to end.
This film would not work as well as it does without the brilliant performance at hand from John Cho. The direction, editing, and supporting performers from the likes of Michelle La, Joseph Lee, and Debra Messing are all genuinely impressive and support the film greatly. But so much of Searching is spent with John Cho and his absolutely heartbreaking performance. You genuinely feel as if this is a father that is so desperate to get his daughter back. You feel every ounce of confusion, frustration, and pure terror radiating from him at every given moment that he is on screen. You feel the history between him and his daughter, and it adds so many deeper layers to a film that is already so incredibly tense to begin with.
My only minor qualm with the film is that the finale does ask you to suspend an ounce of disbelief as it wraps up its story. In most cases I would have this be a glaring issue, but I was undeniably compelled by Searching until the moment that it cut to credits. For whatever minor plot or script issue that I have with it, it remains to be an entirely engrossing and absolutely visionary film that seamlessly builds Hitchcockian-level suspense all the way through. I implore everyone to give this one a chance, even if the concept sounds a bit repetitive to you. At its core, it’s a haunting and enthralling story about a father’s love for his daughter. And at the end of the day, that’s what spoke to me the most about this film. 4/5.