Review | ‘Searching’: an inventive new thriller

Searching

“Searching” was released in theaters Aug. 24.

“Searching,” an experimental film that tells the story through a computer’s point of view, follows a missing 16-year-old girl, Margo (Michelle La), and her father, David Kim’s (John Cho), desperate search to find her. For people who have not seen the movie and are skeptical about the storytelling approach, rest assured that the technique does an amazing job bringing the film to life.

The computer screen is not all webpages and messages. Even though the movie takes place entirely on a computer screen, it manages to connect us with the characters’ lives on an intimate level that is more personal than some traditional films. The actors’ performances are shown through home videos, FaceTime, and news reports. The audience also gets to look at the messages, photos and social media accounts of the characters, which in the real world, would be very invasive.

But, it allows viewers to get to know the characters and heightens the suspense and eeriness of the film. It’s a mysterious way to tell the story, because the audience is not able to see the characters outside of the computer screen — and whether people are posting on social media, messaging friends, making a video, or FaceTimeing a family member, they choose what to reveal and what to keep hidden. It’s much easier to put on a “face” when you are on a screen, rather than show your true self. This is the most haunting part of the film.

The film did cheat the computer screen idea a bit. Originally, everything was from David’s computer perspective. But later in the film, the computer screen occasionally shows online news reports on the investigation, including videos of David talking with the reporters. These scenes were from computers of people around the neighborhood who were watching the news reports on Margot. Even though the information was necessary to execute certain plot points, it seemed like they couldn’t think of a better way to share these plot points and keep the computer scenes going.

Margot’s father seems paranoid at first, but the plot twists in the film lead the audience to believe he is not going crazy, and that someone was responsible for Margot’s disappearance. Each red herring is equally believable and convincing — they all represent issues that could happen in real life. A catfish making friends online with an teenager who doesn’t know any better.

An uncle who spends questionable one-on-one time with his niece into the late hours of the night. A classmate who sexualizes and objectifies Margot on a regular basis. A mentally ill stranger with a criminal record who claims to have been at the crime scene. A introverted, antisocial boy desperate for connection. A police officer eager to close the case.

The plot thickens, and emphasizes the incredibly unnerving ways that the internet can be used in both lifesaving and dangerous ways. It can save lives by providing surveillance through social media, videos and browsing history. However, the internet can also be dangerous because of the people who take advantage of its capabilities and abuse it in bone-chilling ways. This juxtaposition, shown through the computer screen, is what makes the film so jarring and thrilling.