VOD film review: Searching
James R | On 01, Jun 2019
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Cast: John Cho
In this always-on age of social media, we know everything about everyone else – and absolutely nothing at all. Searching, the directorial debut of Aneesh Chaganty, dives deep into that conundrum, and doesn’t let you put your head back above the surface for 100 minutes. He achieves that by forcing us to share the perspective of David (John Cho), a father who discovers that his daughter, Margot, has gone missing. And so he does what anyone else might in the digital era: signs onto her Facebook account and starts digging from there, messaging people, asking questions and piecing together the puzzle that forms.
It’s a classic detective story played out across modern computers, phones and tablets, and Chaganty uses every last type of media to tell his story, from phone calls and video messages to simply hopping between tabs within a web browser. It’s a brilliantly economic piece of storytelling, conveying so much with the briefest of materials and the smallest amount of words. The script, by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian, is perfectly attuned to the way technology is used today, which ensures that every new twist and revelation feels entirely logical, while the editing (by Nick Johnson and Will Merrick) intuitively stitches it all together, moving at a slick pace and with seamless leaps from one type of screen to another.
Cho, though, is the hinge upon which this carefully orchestrated machine turns, and he’s flawless as the concerned, bewildered, scared and angry dad, having to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t know his daughter, as much as the possibility that she might be dead. Despite its computerised focus, Cho ensures there’s a real emotional weight to every pixel we see, elevating what is essentially a missing-persons drama to something fresh and original. For Chaganty to do all this with his first feature film is remarkable, almost as remarkable as the fact that this is the first mainstream US thriller to have an Asian-American actor in the lead. But, like the smartly integrated platforms and profiles, you never once stop to think about that while it’s all unfolding; for all its novel form of presentation, Searching feels like the most natural thing in the world.