‘The story is so cleanly told through David’s searching through Margot’s computer history to his calls with Rosemary and the news reports that [the film] being [presented] on a computer screen is almost forgotten’
Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty
Starring: John Cho, Debra Messing
Having watched Unfriended the night before, I was amazed to find out Searching is told through a similar method; that of being told nearly entirely from a computer screen (with various CCTV footage and news reports added in, too). David (John Cho) and his daughter, Margot (Michelle La), are still reeling from the death of David’s wife, Pamela (Sara Sohn) two years prior, and, as a result, have drifted apart somewhat. This is all news to David, though, who only begins to unravel the widening of their relationship after Margot goes missing and he accesses her laptop. Soon he finds out she wasn’t as popular as she made out, she quit piano lessons some months prior and often lied about her whereabouts. Helped by Detective Rosemary (Debra Messing), though, David soon begins a journey to discover the truth about Margot’s whereabouts, even if he disagrees with the obvious story that is put in front of him.
Despite coming out years after Unfriended, which, to my knowledge, was the first film to be told via a computer screen, Searching does it much more smoothly and effectively. While I took issue with the way David moved his mouse around (it was, at times, a bit paint-by-numbers as the mouse hovered over everything important that we as the audience should know), generally it looked really clean and easy to watch. The editing helped, too, with zooms and pans, rather than simply having a set-screen the whole time. Searching also fills in a lot of dead-air time quite effectively, something which I disliked about Unfriended and was worried upon realising Searching was presented in the same style.
However, despite being told through a different mean, it’s still a who-done-it style missing persons investigation, and going in I was a bit concerned about how it could effectively tell a police investigation through David’s laptop and whether or not the story would work well due to it. And I am glad to say I was blown away by both. The story is so cleanly told through David’s searching through Margot’s computer history to his calls with Rosemary and the news reports that being on a computer screen is almost forgotten about it’s so well done, and the mystery itself is brilliant. While there are the obvious red herrings, there are a couple of times in the film I generally thought I’d sussed it out only to be proven completely wrong, and the eventual reveal is beautifully told throughout the film in such minor details. Something which can be immediately disregarded as part-and-parcel of a normal film stands a great chance in Searching as being a major clue in the investigation. It is also aided by David’s unravelling of Margot’s true character, adding an extra element to the mystery.
My only issues with it stem from the fact I don’t particularly love this style of presentation. John Cho was fantastic in his role (which took some getting used to as I’m used to seeing John Cho in much more comedic films), but it’s hard grading an actor’s performance when so much of the film is him having phone calls and a computer screen scrolling through Facebook or Tumblr. And while I loved the mystery itself and the subtle clues it spread around the film, I couldn’t fall in love with the film as a whole because of the style. But my disliking of that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that Searching has a great mystery and a very clean and somewhat unique style of storytelling.
Personal: * * * Acting: * * * Writing: * * * * Presentation: * * * *
Overall Rating: * * * ½