Movie Review: Searching (English)

Aneesh Chaganty's directorial debut Searching is exactly what it says it's about, just that the "searching" happens to unfold in the wilderness of the internet within the confines of the electronic devices we seem to be more and more reluctant to part with, playing out as a cautionary techno-thriller that unspools entirely via laptop screens, security cameras, TV news bulletins, YouTube videos, iPhone and social media messages. It's not an entirely new conceit, but Chaganty makes it all work seamlessly (props to the editing team) despite the plot's heavy reliance on coincidental discoveries that seem too easy to begin with. Even the story is silicon-wafer thin, delving into the sudden disappearance of a 15-year-old Margot Kim, leaving her panic-stricken single dad (the criminally underrated John Cho) to scramble for clues leading up to her vanishing act, but not before realising he needs to find out "who she is" before he can find out "where she is." But thrilling it is all the same. As confusion slowly turns into full-blown anxiety, Chaganty & co. conjure innovative ways to weave technology into interesting plot points, sustaining the dramatic tension and lending it an almost voyeuristic vibe that feels both queasy and unnerving. Most importantly though, it's the film's emotional beats that really make it sing, even if it frustratingly offers almost nothing of its characters, rendering them faceless and reducing them into mere digital talking heads.