CCFF 2018: Searching

John Cho appears in Searching by Aneesh Chaganty, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Juan Sebastian Baron.

Searching is an intense roller coaster of a thriller that takes place on entirely on computer and smartphone screens.

We’re quickly caught up on the backstory of the Kim family, including late wife Pam (Sara Sohn).  Watching her battle with lymphoma play out in a matter of mere moments doesn’t do it justice.  There are the typical first day of school photos or piano lessons.  The early minutes of the film are tame compared to what’s about to develop when Margot  (Michelle La) goes missing.

After David Kim’s (John Cho) teenage daughter, Margot goes missing, he calls people who might know something.  Silicon Valley Police Detective, Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is assigned to investigate Margot’s case.  Despite all efforts to find Margot, the investigation has gone nowhere.  Suddenly, David decides to take the search to Margot’s laptop.  This is where he digs through but what else, her social media profiles.  In digging through her social media contacts, David learns more about his daughter than he thought he knew before.  This includes her YouCast channel.

With Searching taking place on screens, screenwriters Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian must write the copy for what is displayed on screen on top of regular dialogue.  All of that copy tells of a subplot that plays out in real-time as everything else takes place on screen.  It’s because of this that the film is one that will play even better on a second viewing.

While one can see some influences from the likes of these other mystery thrillers in viewing the film, it’s the digital aspect that makes Searching so unique.  Chaganty and Ohanian give us a fresh take on the genre–shot entirely in 13 days with the editing starting weeks before because there’s such an intense focus on the digital screens.  Film editors editors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson deserve all the award nominations for their work on the film.  While other films and television shows (Modern Family) have taken the on-screen approach to storytelling, none have done so in such a thrilling way.

Because of how good the film is, Chaganty ought to be considered as a filmmaker to watch in the years ahead.  Interestingly enough, there’s an entire cut of the film in which Chaganty plays every single role.  One can only hope that this is a bonus feature when the film is released on home media later this year.

With the film being told entirely through a digital lens, Searching takes stories such as ones told in Gone Girl and The Girl on The Train to an entirely different level.  Watch this film once and then watch it again to see everything you missed on screen.

DIRECTOR:  Aneesh Chaganty
SCREENWRITERS:  Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian
CAST:  John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La

An official selection of the 2018 Chicago Critics Film Festival, Searching held its world premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the NEXT program.  Screen Gems will release the NEXT Audience Award winner on August 3, 2018.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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