Searching, the debut feature of Aneesh Chaganty starring John Cho (Star Trek) and Debra Messing (Will and Grace), is one of those rare beasts where, not just in the interests of spoilers, but for the sake of the experience, it’s best if you go into the film knowing as little as possible.
If you haven’t seen it yet, and if you have an interest in ‘film’ you really should, get out and catch it then come back and read the rest of this later.
Now that we’ve all seen it, the elephant in the room is the way Searching is told via screens. I’ve seen a few short films try the ‘it all happens on a computer desktop’ thing before and none of them remotely carried it off, so this is probably the biggest ‘don’t know about it beforehand’ thing for me as I would have steered clear of the film had I known.
But Chaganty really understands how stories can be told through the actions of the characters, as well as having a good picture of the way our online footprints can tell stories about us. As the various layers of missing daughter Margot’s social media presence are uncovered, the film paints a very interesting picture of the way we can open up in one social avenue and close up in another.
Of course, the most important part of this film is John Cho. Although it’s far from a one-person show in terms of numbers of characters, as he is the person who the audience spends the most time with, as well as the person whose actions we spend the most time watching, it was pivotal that Cho get the part right. And damn, did he knock it out of the park. It’s of no surprise that he would be charismatic and watchable (he’s a movie star for a reason) but he really dives in and sells this role as the concerned parent, the grieving widower and the amateur social media sleuth.
Cho’s chemistry with Joseph Lee (Lion), playing his brother, is wonderful in its affection, not because they’re easy and affable with each other, but because there’s a slight awkwardness to their relationship that feels very… familiar…. No pun intended.
Probably the other big success of ‘Searching’ is the way it uses foreshadowing. Throughout the film, clues and hints are placed in a way that is as blatant as Hot Fuzz but played straight. In the end, you’ll pick up some of them and get one step ahead of the detective work, always part of the thrill of a good crime story, but as the reveals happen, you’ll also think back and have a few ‘oh’ moments.
Because that’s what Searching really is at its core, a detective story. The marketing makes it look a lot like a horror, especially the trailer, and knowing about the computer screen device makes it seem a bit like a drama, but it really is all about the investigation and the journey John Cho takes throughout it.
Searching is in cinemas now.