Having a mind that constantly seeks innovations with a heart that bleeds true emotions, former Google employee Aneesh Chaganty first feature (shorts like GOOGLE GLASS: SEEDS, ADVENTURE, WISCONSIN, previous) SERCHING is told through the eyes of smart phones, laptop screens, browser windows and surveillance footage, that astonishingly moves the traditionally known way of mystery/thriller storytelling to the ‘recycle bin’ but celebrates the good old Hitchcockian regime in this high –wire thriller that ‘searches’ beyond and finds those missing ‘links’ of our life.
SEARCHING is a rare phenomena, unique in its approach like THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT which masterly combined the 8mm video format with black-and-white 16 mm film, that made a striking comment on what can happen when youngsters leap common sense in their exuberant enthusiasm to hop in the world of voodoo and witchcraft. SEARCHING redefines story telling in the mystery/thriller genre with an exceptionally clever use of those electronic devices that are part of our life, making the audience successfully believe that they are clicking and typing along with the characters outside the screen as well. The gimmick works perfectly without any hitches.
Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo in OPEN WINDOWS (2014) tried the new technique in using devices in thrillers, followed by Georgian-Russian actor and film director Leo Gabriadze’s 2015 mystery thriller UNFRIENDED but with very little success. Aneesh Chaganty’s SEARCHING is a cut above in every sense, presentation, execution, performance that meets those profound layers on how shorter the world has become and how fare are we from our near and dear ones.
A Korean-American family in California includes a middle age David Kim (John Cho) his daughter Margot (Michelle La) and wife Pamela (Sara Sohn), it’s a usual modern family that enjoys the comfort of technology and finds time in shooting those home videos.
One day 16-year-old Margot goes missing, she is untraceable and strangely has left her laptop at home. A local investigation is opened and Detective Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to the case. But with no success and more than a day passed, David decides to trace her daughter through her laptops, social media accounts and other available digital footprints in this hyper-modern thriller.
Director Aneesh Chaganty and his co-writer, cleverly uses the term ‘searching’ which common in our daily life occupied by smart phones, gadgets etc. right from the title to the metamorphic significance of our ‘hidden’ world on the web, to the undercurrent of modern day relationship between parents, the overindulgence of technology that hampers true negotiations amongst humans, the gap between reality and fiction. The thoroughly engaging screenplay inks the relationship between technology and humanity in a way that sets this movie apart from the others. As the mystery unfolds, it takes those dramatic turns and achieves in obtaining those genuine emotions.
The movie is powered by exceptional performances, John Cho as David Kim is brilliant. Michelle La as the teenage Margot is exceptionally at ease and realistic to the hilt. Sara Sohn as Pamela is endearing. Debra Messing as Detective Vick is just perfect.
A technical marvel, the only hitch is the sugary optimism in the end and the search by Kim somewhere in the middle appearing methodical.
SEARCHING is a movie that in all probability can set a benchmark as done by PARANORMAL ACTIVITY about a decade ago. Sony has acquired this from the same producer who produced the franchise of UNFRIENDED – UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB. There are strong chances that many will ‘follow’ SEARCHING in future cause this is just not a cleverly executed hyper modern thriller, it’s an adage on the disturbing truths about the Internet age, the hypocrisy in social media that highlights the surreal truth of how far we are from our near and dear ones in the world which is now just a click away.