A man desperately tries to find his missing daughter in Searching. David Kim (John Cho) has had a somewhat distant relationship with his 16 year old daughter Margot (Michelle La) after the death of his wife. However, David becomes concerned when Margot seemingly vanishes without a trace one night and it isn’t long before he reports her missing. David is instructed by Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) to go into Margot’s laptop and try to find any clues to where she has gone.
Searching is one of the many films this year to be produced by Timur Bekmambetov, that uses his patented “Screen Life” filmmaking process, which captures activity on a computer screen. As the feature length debut by director and co-writer Aneesh Chaganty, Searching probably makes one of the most complex uses of Screen Life, with the film featuring many zooms and pans across the computer screen to direct the viewer’s attention. In addition to the video chats that tend to make-up a good chunk of Screen Life film, Searching also utilizes news footage and even in one case home security cameras.
Format aside, Searching is a typical missing person thriller that has many twists and turns to the plot, including a number of red herrings that pop up. There is also one section of the film, where the film delves into the “court of public opinion” and how social media can influence a high profile missing persons case. On top of that, David becomes quite obsessive in his search for his daughter, to the point where he is told to let the police do the work.
The question that remains after watching Searching is whether or not Screen Life is a sustainable way to make movies. While film such as Unfriended, Profile, and Searching all make different use of the process, it remains to be seen whether this is truly a new way of making movies or just a fad. If there is one element of Searching that causes it to stand out from the others is the casting of John Cho and Debra Messing, who while not exactly A-list actors, are still recognizable faces for the audience to latch onto.
Overall, I have to say that Searching was a well produced thriller that makes good use of its “life through the computer” format.