Having a movie set entirely from the point-of-view of a computer screen is nothing new. 2015’s Unfriended was what started it all off. The technique might sound like a gimmick, but it hasn’t been used more effectively than in Searching. The sleeper hit from Sundance (taking home the Alfred P. Sloan Award), and directorial debut from Aneesh Chagnaty, contains no supernatural beings or jump scares. Just the right amount of pure thrills and a heart at its core whether it’s from a computer screen, smartphone screen, or surveillance footage. It’s something Alfred Hitchcock would be impressed with.
David Kim (John Cho) is a widower, whose wife (Sarah Sohn, in video footage) passed away from lymphoma, loves spending time looking through old home videos and photos of her and his daughter Margot (Michelle La). Raising her into her teenage years has been difficult for David, since she is spending too much time either with her friends, taking piano lessons, or on social media. One day, David hasn’t been receiving any messages from her. He goes onto her laptop in search for clues on where Margot might have went. Along with San Jose Police Detective Rosemary Vice (Debra Messing), he becomes shocked to learn the truth of Margot’s disappearance.
According to a recent study, 95% of teenagers–aged 13 to 17–own a smartphone and more than half use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. It’s hard to imagine what life would be like without smartphones. It’s no surprise today’s young generation is spending more time on the Internet than interacting face-to-face. Shot in 13 days and edited in two years, Chagnaty and his crew have done a marvelous job using modern technology to build up suspense. Filled with so many twists and turns, it keeps audiences guessing until the very end.
Cho is brilliant as David desperately looking for answers. It’s hard not to feel bad for him trying to communicate with the only living person he loves. Along with every character, his actions say so much even on the webcam. Messing has never been better!
Searching is an instant cult classic that everyone will be discussing for years. Such a shame it didn’t receive a lot of attention. If you missed it in theaters, it’s definitely worth checking out on Redbox.