John Cho Stars In Unusual Hi-Tech Missing-Person Mystery ‘Searching’

 It’s told entirely via device screens.

Searching (PG13)

Starring John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La

Directed by Aneesh Chaganty

When widower and single father David Kim (a never been better John Cho, headlining his first thriller) discovers that his teenage daughter Margot (Michelle La) has disappeared, he goes online to track her whereabouts. Inside the worldwide web, he uncovers a few startling facts about Margot he never knew, making it difficult to locate her.

But when he reaches out to Netizens, the responses are mixed. There are folks who empathise him, offering him support and information, and there are those pesky trolls who blame Margot’s vanishing act on David’s bad parenting (far from it, he’s a devoted dad). One second David is a victim, the next a villain. Welcome to the anti-social network.

On paper, the story seems generic but its execution isn’t. Aneesh Chaganty’s feature debut is told in ‘screen-life’, where the narrative unfolds entirely on a device screen, via FaceTime chats, YouTube clips, Google searches, spy cameras, and assorted social media platforms. It’s basically a ‘greatest hits’ collection of ways we consume news and entertainment and curate our experiences.  

searching inset
Up close and personal: 'Searching' is told entirely via digital screens. 

Granted, the gimmicky presentation is distracting initially, but it doesn’t take long to acclimatise to it. Let’s not forget we spend every waking moment staring at our smart toys. Except in this case, the browsing action is on someone else’s gadget on the big screen. It’s voyeuristic and cinematic at the same time.

Neither does it get in the way of telling a fast-paced, twists-filled and absorbing thriller about the trials and tribulations of modern parenting and the dark side of the Internet.  

It also has a very emotional story, and what really gives the screen-life mystery its gravitas is the heartbreaking opening montage that’s similar to the one in Up. Without that sequence, the rest of the movie may not be as effective.

So whatever you do, make sure you catch the movie on time. (****)

Photos: Sony Pictures Entertainment

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