Searching (2018)

Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Writer: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Sara Sohn, Alex Jayne Go, Megan Liu, Kya Dawn Lau, Michelle La, Joseph Lee, Dominic Hoffman
Seen on: 1.9.2018

Single dad David (John Cho) doesn’t know much about his daughter Margot’s (Michelle La) life. That becomes absolutely clear to him when she goes missing and he starts to look for her by going through everything on her laptop that could point him in any direction, while police detective Vick (Debra Messing) does everything on the official side. But with every hour that passes, the chances of finding Margot alive dwindle more.

Searching has two things going for it: the gimmick that it tells its story entirely via computer screens and everything that can be seen there and John Cho. The former works for some, but not all of the film, the latter is simply amazing.

The film poster showing John Cho looking at a smart phone.

I like films that play with the ubiquity of screens and cameras in our daily life; and I like conceptual narrative devices that limit choices like the idea to only tell a story via screens and cameras instead of having it recorded with “invisible” cameras. To pull this off, filmmakers have to become very creative. If it’s done perfectly, it will feel entirely natural despite those artificial limitations.

In the case of Searching, it works for a while, but the concept does get a bit strained. At times it’s just stretched a little thin to not break its own rules. And I have to admit that I did get a little tired of the constraints.

John Cho in the film.

The film appears to not be entirely happy with how things are going, either, but it seems to locate this issues more with the plot and not with the gimmick. And so the plot takes some increasingly unlikely turns, with the final twists taking things too far for me. But I guess, that’s also a hallmark of the genre, so maybe it has to be part of it.

In any case, John Cho is simply fantastic – and it often feels like he is the only person in the film. He definitely makes Searching worth watching (he makes pretty much anything worth watching). Despite his stellar acting, the film doesn’t get much past okay, though.

John Cho in the film.

Summarizing: it’s okay, but not much more.

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