Daily, parents are left traumatized when their teenage sons and daughters go missing, a reality that Searching covers all on a computer owned by a single father named David.
It starts with a montage of his old home videos that he stores into his desktop files, including Margot’s daily 5pm piano with mom. These moments appear sweet until his wife acquires lymphoma, her return home date delayed until finally getting deleted. Then before this thriller kicks off the thrills, the sound design first calms down the mood with a YouTube video of peaceful music that David plays. This creative choice implemented within the soundtrack works well to soothe before the storm. Then a screensaver fills up the entire frame to express time passage—a phone call alert pops up, the dad is asleep, and boom: his daughter, Margot, is gone.
After the production crew ensures realism to a relative’s death, the far more private, personal side of it is shown instead of the outside assumption of what cancer is like. The haunts of the aftermath reveal themselves when David copies memories including Margot’s first day of school and her first piano lesson, once cheerful memories now too painful to relive. Other instantly relatable moments include his constant passive-aggressive reminders for Margot to empty the trash. This appears on FaceTime by the way, which controls all the personal interactions in this feature, a much closer to home way of communicating than a mere ordinary scene would have accomplished. You may not know one of your close friends or relatives copy his home tapes to his other private folders, as David does, but there are many similar unknown facts about people you know, as this film addresses. In fact, people nowadays may as well not have a concrete identity anymore, since in this fictional case file, no characters are actually ever seen, just pixelated versions of themselves adapted to fit the social platform.
You easily comprehend David‘s guilt, thanks to the gradually escalating score, one that establishes danger when he sees some guy with a hookah commenting on Margot’s Instagram posts, including one eggplant emoji comment. Without the audio work, this would be just another account found on social media, yet concerning Margot’s unawareness of this guy’s suspected intentions; it turns truthful to how most sexual exploitation starts. Other tiny details express complete knowledge of youth culture from the committed screenwriters; during one conversation Margot has with a stranger online, she’s asked her favorite Pokémon; her answer is Uxie, a memory-eraser, the other says her favorite Pokémon is Kecleon, which changes color to disappear. Amazing how those two Pokémon choices fit perfectly what these two online interactors want to do to themselves!
Although it’s essential to bring up that this is the first feature film of director Aneesh Chaganty, and although he put in a good effort, he’s still got room for improvement. If there’s anything this movie is merely decent at rather than tremendous at, it’s the rather overlooked world building possibilities from inside the restrictive rooms the FaceTime callers sit in. Not much is done to utilize the background elements to give crucial information about the characters, and the random use of color for the sets doesn’t generate enough claustrophobia. When the screen is not focused on the FaceTime calls, an apparent lack of mastery in this type of space resorts to cropping in on certain elements of a webpage, which extinguishes the feel of being on your own laptop this film clearly intends.
Though despite those rather minor criticisms, genuine stress still leaves an impact by the familiar circumstances, including when Margot doesn’t answer her dad’s many texts. In another scenario, it could mean a delayed response, but here, it could be she ran away. Just his typing speed alone sparks the clear injustice, especially when revisiting the account of David’s dead wife, which hasn’t been logged onto for 694 days. That is why the montage in the beginning supports the emotional impact so well, because after given a chance to cry, you thus genuinely hope to see David get back all he has left.
But there’s no predictability in his mission to find his daughter: once the direction seems easy to figure out, it changes suddenly and constantly until the tension concludes. The tension is all thanks to how the final edit mixes in news footage to resemble an FBI case file compilation, structured appropriately by co-writer Sev Ohanian (second feature film) so that you naturally want Margot to be found.
To stop future crises like this one from happening again, parents and children likewise need to know what goes on with each other. Lack of availability can mark the difference between two crucial seconds, which means minors nowadays should stop being so shut away from parents. Please do the same.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Bishop, Bryan. “The emotional thriller Searching proves good computer-screen movies aren’t a fluke.” Digital image. The Verge. Sundance Institute, 24 Aug 2018. Web. <https://www.theverge.com/2018/1/22/16918164/sundance-2018-searching-movie-review-john-cho-debra-messing>.
Searching. Sony Pictures. Web. <http://www.searching.movie/site/>.