MFST’s ‘Searching’ Movie Review
Last week, I got the chance to watch Searching, a film about David Kim (played by John Cho), a father who’s desperate to find his 15-year-old daughter, Margot (played by Michelle La) after she goes missing. Although the storyline seems simple, Searching stands out because the entire film takes place on a computer screen. Now, as strange or unappealing as that seems it’s not the first movie to use a computer screen to tell a story. Most notably, the horror movie franchise Unfriended also takes place entirely on the computer. But this time around, it’s not a horror movie but rather a drama (and not a thriller like I’d originally thought when I first saw the trailer).
It starts on an older Microsoft computer, the signing in music very familiar to anyone that’s come before the age of immense technological advancement and eases into a modern Macbook full of iPhone integration, which gave the film a lot of opportunities to tell the story a lot of different ways – through text message, FaceTiming, looking at news articles, and of course, combing through Margot’s social media pages.
The use of the technology and making the story fit within a computer screen makes for some creative storytelling; from seeing old home videos and pictures of the family and watching David, Margot, or Margot’s mom, Pam, adding things like piano practices and recitals on their personal calendars. It all tells a story with a distinct timeline. What I found interesting was seeing Margot delete things on her calendar after it becomes clear that Pam isn’t coming home from the hospital because it still easily brings emotion into the story without it taking a lot of effort.
But once we’re taken into present time, we see how playful and sweet David and Margot’s father-daughter relationship is, which makes Margot going missing that much more intense because we know how much Margot means to David. It does take a bit of time before David comes to the full realization that Margot is actually missing, but as an audience, we already know that she’s missing and are therefore waiting for David to figure it out, which makes it that much more suspenseful.
Once we get into Margot’s investigation, we’re drawn into all the little facets of Margot’s life via her social media, which David obtains through series of clicking on “forgot your password” links on her laptop, which she left at home before she went to her study group. Which is odd but without her laptop, the investigation would literally be nowhere because all of Margot’s social media accounts are private. Which is frustrating to David at first but is overall a smart decision for a teenager using social media.
The investigation itself is interesting; we basically learn that Margot doesn’t have a lot of friends and the one friend she does seem to have is really only friends with her because he feels bad that she lost her mom and their parents used to be friends. It gets even more interesting near the end when the case seems like it solves itself but then has a shocking twist in the end, which I personally did not see coming. The reasoning behind it really mirrors how David is doing everything he can to find his daughter. And to know what I mean by that, you’re just going to have to watch the movie when it officially comes out.
In addition to how great the storytelling methods are in this film, I also love the fact that it revolves around a Korean-American family. There’s nothing specific about the story itself that lends itself to being about an Asian-American family, but the fact that I’m so happy about the casting means that Hollywood is also following the trend of having more representation in the film industry. The biggest and most recent movie that’s gotten a lot of buzz lately being Crazy Rich Asians. I hope that the increase in representation in Hollywood continues with how film and TV shows are casted and the diversity of the writers, directors, and producers that are behind those projects, the way that Searching has.
Searching comes out in theaters on August 31st.
Samantha Nguyen covers entertainment news for MFST. You can follow her on Twitter @mzsnguyenthai and @mzsamnguyenthai. Also click here to read her personal blog.
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