Screened at Sundance, thriller Searching presents a tense tale of a father searching for his daughter. A concept we are all familiar with and possibly one that’s been done to death, but director Aneesh Chaganty makes the decision to tell this story completely through the many faces of technology.
Relying on technology to solely drive the narrative can be risky business. As technology has evolved, we have become so reliant on knowing exactly what’s going on, where people are, what they are doing; that watching a film that is simply screenshots of exactly that isn’t the escapism most of us are after when we enter the doors of a cinema. Although, as we sit and watch a computer soup up, facetime happenings and emails being looked at, it becomes eerily relaxing; cathartic even as we observe someone else doing all the clicking, typing and chatting to people you can’t really be bothered with. Although, Searching quickly reverts to the other end of the spectrum making the spectator somewhat sleepy despite a rather tense police investigation emerging.
After losing his wife, single father David (John Cho) takes good care of Margot, however some might argue he is a tad all consuming. With technology tracking our every move and the advantage of instant messaging or should we say hindrance, poor Margot’s whereabouts doesn’t go unnoticed for a second much to her and any young ladies annoyance. Except, every child lies to the parents once or twice don’t they? When Margot doesn’t come home, isn’t at school and no one can get hold of her this quickly turns into a full on missing persons exploration. With the award winning, perfect parent and detective Vik (Debra Messing) on the case, things unfold rapidly, but we along with David are left thinking there is something missing from this series of unfortunate events.
Despite trying to through us off with twists and turns as we trace every last digital move of Margot to figure out what has happened to her, the dialogue constantly reminds us of practically every avenue that has already been explored – constantly. This repetition, along with the same faces popping up on video chats and names texting, what could have been an incredibly engaging prospect turns into an average crime drama. If stripped back slightly, making us truly work for it, Searching would be been significantly more immersive for the audience, instead of offering everything up on a plate. John Cho as father David is thoroughly engaging, providing us with a convincing performance as the chilling realisation that he never really knew his daughter after all.
Ultimately, what Searching achieves visually through technology is impressive. The narrative unfolds completely and utterly through screens, which is a concept used before but thankfully not one we are sick of yet. The suspense created is without a doubt warranted, albeit we were thrown many a curve ball and once the culprit is revealed, a sig and a roll of eyes is inevitable.
Whilst Searching represents a refreshing stance within filmmaking and indeed independent cinema, its repetitive nature takes its toll.
Searching is out in cinemas 31st August!