Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
The computer interface movie is the new handheld camera movie, but after seeing “Searching” I think I’m okay with that. Movies like “Unfriended” and its sequel have offered new ways to scare you by making you afraid of the thing you need most in your life—your electronic devices. But never before has this way of storytelling been utilized so perfectly as the parenting horror story told in “Searching.”
When his 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La) doesn’t come home from a study group, and doesn’t respond to a day’s worth of calls and texts, David Kim (John Cho) calls 911. The detective on the new missing persons case, Meredith Vick (Debra Messing), tells David that he can help police by digging through his daughter’s social media profiles in search of any clues to her whereabouts. He searches through her laptop, but what he finds reveals that what he thought he knew of his only child’s life was only part of the picture.
Unlike most of these movies, “Searching” breaks from tradition a little bit by spending the first few minutes showing off old home movies and childhood photos, catching the audience up on Margot’s first 16 years of existence. It also has a score, beyond the occasional YouTube music David plays (which is the only way you normally get music in these movies). But the rule-bending helps it achieve a level of drama those other movies weren’t able to. And “Searching” makes up for it with an attention to detail most of the computer screen thrillers haven’t. In “Unfriended,” the multiple screens overlapping each other seemed to only be there for the plot’s convenience, or to make the screen more interesting. In “Searching,” it means the screen is literally covered in potential clues in this twisty whodunnit. And the answers are hidden in all that evidence, if you’re clever enough to piece it together. So while the ending is shocking, it’s not impossible to guess if you’ve been paying attention. To me, there’s no higher compliment to give a thriller than that. Watching a movie where you can play armchair detective is one of the greatest joys in life. “Searching” gives you that opportunity.