A Rollercoaster Ride Of Emotion From Start To Finish
How well do you really know your teenage kids? It’s something that parents dread to be asked and something Director Aneesh Chaganty explores in excruciating detail in his latest thriller, Searching. Told exclusively through digital screens and fragments of facetime and other media, Laptop thriller Searching is an engrossing thrill ride from start to finish. While it may not be the first film to use a computer desktop as a way of telling a story, it’s far and away the best. From the opening 5 minutes that montage home videos of the Kim family through to the shocking climactic reveal, Searching is a pure thriller; a rollercoaster ride of emotion from start to finish.
The story begins with an introduction to the Kim family. 16 year old Margot (Michelle La) is busy with schoolwork while father David (John Cho) feels increasingly distant from his daughter, struggling to find a way to connect with her following the tragic loss of Mum Pam (Sara Sohn). When Margot fails to respond to messages after some erratic behaviour the night before, an investigation is launched while David breaks into Margot’s laptop to find clues to her whereabouts. What transpires from here is a plot that dips and dives, twists and turns, spinning in an uncontrollable thrill ride as David works with Detective Vick (Debra Messing) to find his daughter.
Much can be said for the overarching plot which, for the most part, does well to keep the real events under wraps while leading us on a wild goose chase for 100 minutes. We of course won’t divulge those plot points here but suffice to say, Searching does an excellent job keeping us engrossed throughout the film, with plenty of little easter eggs and seemingly random titbits of information turning out to be incredibly important later on down the line. Given that most of the film is told through a digital screen it can be no surprise that the usual suspects Facebook, Gmail, Google and every other popular site in between make an appearance here, with a layer of authenticity included with the various accounts and numbers helping to really immerse you into the story.
It’s surprising then that given the digital presence of the film, Searching does an excellent job with its characters, taking us from a very specific place early on to an entire evolution of character for the various faces that make an appearance over the course of the film’s run time. It’s a little touch but something that really helps, given that the periods of acting on display are reduced to news reports, home videos and fragments of facetime dotted through the film.
Searching is not just one of the more unique films released this year, it’s arguably one of the best thrillers too. The story does fall into melodramatic tones at times and the constant digital presence feels a bit stretched, especially late on as the film ramps up to its climax, but there’s enough here to make the film well worth checking out. Much like handheld camera horrors before it, digital screen films have over-saturated the market and lost their initial appeal. Thankfully, Searching is a film that bucks the trend, producing the best digital screen thriller to date and a strong contender for one of the best films released this year.