After David Kim (John Cho)'s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter's laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace his daughter's digital footprints before she disappears forever.
A story told entirely through a character's laptop screen - it's an increasingly popular gimmick that's now been done enough times that it can no longer be called fresh. But, thankfully, this is best execution of the style to date. Aneesh Chaganty dazzles in his directorial debut, displaying a mastery of the medium, crafting a compelling film narrative told entirely through someone's laptop activity.
The movie comes out hot with a mostly nonverbal tale of love and family that's shades of 'Up' and nearly as affecting. An emotionally warping scene like that to kick things off lets us know immediately that we're in good hands. The music choices give a strong signal of this as well. I firmly believe that music choices in the opening minutes of movies are as reliable an indicator of the movie's quality as you'll find.
This moving love story tells that us the family is close, or, at least they were before mom died. Now dad David (John Cho) is raising his daughter Margot (Michelle La) as well he can, but they seem a bit distant. When Margot mysteriously goes missing, he finds out just how little he knows about his daughter.
He and police detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) scramble to find out what happened to Margot - was she kidnapped, catfished, or did she runaway? The work they put in to unravel this mystery is frantic and exhausting. They track Margot's car on traffic cams, they contact all of her Facebook friends, and they dig for anything of use they can find on her laptop. The level of detail displayed in the investigation is so thorough that it's as much an education in snooping as it is entertainment (not that parents should follow these steps to snoop on their own kids!)
It's a constant thrill ride throughout, even as conventional storytelling techniques seep through the cracks at the end when the laptop screen gimmick proves too challenging. One answered question leads to five more unanswered, and a few false endings and twists will leave you breathless. In movies, there are twists and then there are TWISTS. "Searching" has TWISTS. Enjoy.
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