Unfriended meets Mystic River.
This film falls into the next “big, new” genre of movie making, in the same vein as found footage was, which is called Screen Life. Screen Life is a genre where your story is told by characters staring at a screen, usually that of a computer, and surfing the web across the different well known platforms that everyone uses. This is easily the best version of this genre to be made yet.
In the film, David Kim (John Cho) realizes that his 16-year old daughter Margot (Michelle La) has gone missing and he tries to do whatever he can do to help the investigation by searching through her social media presence. Some of the things that he discovered led him to believe that he did not know his daughter as much as he thought he did. Detective Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case and she has to try and reign David in.
This movie truly transcends the gimmick of the genre. This is more than just the pieces of the sites like Facebook and Instagram or the Apple apps and techs that are available. The reason this is more than what you see is the mystery of exactly what happened to Margot. As David is searching through her laptop for some kind of clue, we the audience are able to be looking too. The mystery is compelling and has plenty of red herrings to keep you off balance. I usually see through these mysteries pretty quickly, and, though I had some suspicions, I had not determined the truth prior to the reveal and any film tat can do that for me is a winner.
John Cho, who spends most of his time acting with a computer screen, is absolutely fabulous as the desperate dad who has to go through a gamut of emotion. From fear to loss to guilt to shame, Cho shows them all. The character of David slowly breaks down as the movie progresses and everything that they try winds up as a dead end. He carries the darkness of the movie with him with every possibility that ends up wrong. However, he is also very smart and I love some of the scenes where he figures something out and how he reveals how capable he truly is (hacking into his daughter’s Facebook is one example).
Most of the film comes directly from the point of view of David, looking on the computer,looking on the social media, talking on the phone. The only negative I have about the film is that, in the third act, that point of view gets a little muddled as some of the expansion of the techno uses seem to isolate David from the POV. We see a police interrogation room and we see some network news coverage that feels like the POV shifted. Although that did not ruin anything for me, I did feel the shift ever so slightly. It still worked for me in the end.
Searching is an amazing film that kept me on the edge of my seat, hoping to discover what had happened and had me wishing/hoping that this would not end with sadness. I really had no idea where the film was heading and that is a true bonus in today’s cinema.