2018-10-26 07:43
John Cho in the movie Searching.


After David Kim’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.


The digital age has drastically changed the human landscape in a short number of years, and the film industry is no stranger to those changes. Today they can bring back dead actors and create other worlds and creatures by using the new advances in CGI, but it’s also changed the stories we see on the big screen.

Cellphones, social media and the computer has changed our daily life drastically, and it’s become ever more important to weave that into modern films.

Searching however takes it a step further by making the whole film from the perspective of a computer screen, through which our main characters live their whole lives. It was first introduced with the horror Unfriended, and in Searching people’s digital lives become an integral part of the story, showing how different people are through their onscreen personas, sometimes more truthful about themselves than they feel comfortable with in real life.

A father (John Cho) becomes disconnected with his teenage daughter (Michelle La) through the loss of his wife, her mother, but when she goes missing he must confront the secrets she holds as he dives into her digital life through the laptop she left behind to help the detective (Debra Messing) solve the mystery.

The biggest drawcard of this movie is its story. While the mysterious disappearance of a girl might have been a simple plot that’s useful for a TV movie, new director Aneesh Chaganty’s style decision makes it stand out. I never thought I’d become so engrossed in the clicks of computer screen, using Apple’s interconnectedness between their phones and laptops to help weave a story including text messages, video calling, Skype, social media platforms, YouTube videos and the Google search bar. The use of programmes didn’t feel forced and felt exactly like how a normal person would navigate their social life, with a few tweaks here and there to move the story forward.

Also kudos to Cho for working with such a limited platform to convey the emotional rollercoaster his character goes through. He had the video sections to work with, but he also had to use his voice to denote the growing hysteria of a parent realising their child is missing.

That emotive performances helped build the inbetween bits where all you have to watch is a computer screen, and through the way to story is built it’s easy for the audience to feel the sadness seep through the screen. Every time new information comes to light on the computer or a new twist takes the story on a new route, the filmmakers depend on the audience’s own interpretation of the information given, but you’re rarely ever lost.

If any filmmaker with a tight budget wants to dabble in this digital style of storytelling, Searching would be the best film to use as a case study and how to interweave the digital sphere with the plot. But what the story also draws attention to is the digital footprint we leave behind. When the father comes across a video of his late wife cooking with his daughter when searching for something else, he hides it from his search findings, showing great emotional pain just with a simple click. It will make you wonder what digital footprint you would leave behind, causing either pain or fond memories for your loved ones.

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