Hot Take: Another film joining the growing trend of using technology to tell the story… but this one is the best of the year so far to do it.
This year, we’ve seen multiple films utilize technology to tell a story. Earlier in the year, Steven Soderbergh shot an entire film through the lens of an iPhone with Unsane. It was well received by some for it’s experimentation though MHT thought it failed miserably in telling a coherent story. Then there was Unfriended: Dark Web which was a sequel and stuck to the limitations of what can be done on a computer screen. Directed by Stephen Susco, Unfriended: Dark Web was shockingly competent considering it was (a) a sequel and (b) a horror flick and typically that combination has fatal flaws. Searching is the third such movie to rely solely on technology to visually tell the story though this one is the first to not have a title that starts with the letter “U” nor does it have a director with an alliterative name. Of the three, Searching had the most promise as it wasn’t putting experimentation first nor was it overly concerned with scaring the bejeezus out of the audience. And, of the three, Searching does the best job of telling a story and captivating an audience beyond the gimmicky method it uses to tell it’s tale.
In Searching, David (John Cho) is recently widowed and has lost touch with his daughter Margot (Michelle La) in some ways. Neither David nor his daughter are dealing with the loss of Pamela (Sara John) well. So, when Margot goes missing, David must find out about what has been going on in Margot’s life and learns the secrets she’s been keeping from him. In his efforts to find out what happened to his daughter, David meets Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) who vows to help David unravel the mystery of his daughter’s disappearance.
Searching‘s contemporary premise makes you wonder how the film will hold up over time. Discussing the plot further risks giving away any glimpse into the tension that is the catalyst for making this an excellent film. There are, of course, flaws and some of those are due to the limitations the filmmakers put on themselves by using the visual approach they use. However, that adds more than subtracts to the film’s overall feel. Cho, in particular, helps push the film with a quality performance as the concerned parent whose world is crumbling down around him as he learns more about his daughter’s life and how desperately he wants to find out if she’s ok.
In the end, Searching delivers beyond the technological gambit it deploys as a visual storytelling device. It almost feels as if the story would be just as good without the approach though one would argue it would be difficult to tell the story in some cases without such an approach. At the very least, the approach provides a more immersive viewing experience and thus connects the audience to both the main character and his daughter as the tension mounts. It’s an unexpectedly strong feature directorial debut for Aneesh Chaganty whose previous efforts were all in short film. Cho should also be recognized for his ability to shake the Harold & Kumar roles of his past (as did sidekick Kal Penn) and developed into a competent serious actor. Searching‘s twists and turns are the final feather in the film’s cap and should keep viewers engrossed right to the bitter end.
The promise of a complete film to go with the technological gimmicks is enough.
You’re boycotting John Cho movies until he agrees to make more Harold & Kumar flicks.