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Review: ‘Searching’ Tells a Compelling Story without Feeling Gimmicky

August 30, 2018Sherry Li

Searching, from director and co-writer Aneesh Chaganty, is a compelling story that follows a father looking for his missing daughter, told completely through the computer screen.

Chaganty pulls together a solid movie, using on-screen tricks that never quite get stale, with a solid performance from John Cho as the father, David Kim. It begins with an old PC, from which we see David and his late wife Pam's (Sara Sohn) daughter Margot (Michelle La) grow up in photographs and home videos of her attending piano recitals, first days of school, and spending time with family. The film quickly pulls you in and we watch through videos, photos, email and social media posts as Pam succumbs to cancer and eventually passes away.

By the time we arrive in the present, the old PC has been replaced with shiny Macs and iPhones, and David and Margot communicate over iMessage and FaceTime. When Margot goes missing after not coming home from a study group session, David uses her laptop to try and find answers, along with the assistance of Detective Vick (Deborah Messing). However, the more he finds on her computer, the more questions he seems to have.

The computer screen gimmick, which actually works well in the context of the movie, allows for an untraditional way for the story to unravel. The film requires viewers to suspend some disbelief, but at the crux of the narrative, David's desire to find Margot feels incredibly authentic, as he quickly realizes that their relationship isn't quite as great as he thought it was, and that Margot may not be who she appears to be either.

That said, the twist at the end is a bit unrealistic, however not entirely unbelievable. The writing by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian pretty strong throughout the whole movie and Cho really delivers, and the film might not have worked quite as well with a lesser actor. A few highlights include when David fumbles around online, like Googling what "Tumbler" is, which is something that happens sparingly enough that it doesn't feel cheap. Cho does a fantastic job as David Kim — his facial expressions, which, for most of the movie is all we really see of him, never take you out of the film. Cho's performance as David is convincing, and his character's love and concern for his daughter brings the movie the emotional depth that it needs.

For fans of mysteries and thrillers, Searching will not disappoint, as the risks the film takes definitely makes for a fun watch. And though some viewers may take a little bit to get accustomed to the untraditional format, it's actually not as distracting as one might think, as the entire screen is never wasted. Some may be turned off by the gimmick, but trust that Cho's performance and the storyline actually do make good use of how the plot actually unfolds.

Searching releases August 31st, 2018 from Sony Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for thematic content, some drug and sexual references, and for language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 42 min.

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