'Searching', literally #StarringJohnCho, is an emotional and absolutely ingenious thriller [Review]

'Searching', literally #StarringJohnCho, is an emotional and absolutely ingenious thriller [Review]

From its form of representation to its content, 'Searching' is an emotional and absolutely ingenious “screen life” thriller

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Photo: 2018 Sundance Festival Hong Kong

From its form of representation to its content, Searching is an emotional and absolutely ingenious “screen life” thriller that portrays the permeability of individual privacy on the Internet and, perhaps, forewarns the audience of its danger.

The distressing story follows the father David Kim (John Cho) trying to find his missing 16-year-old daughter Margot (Michelle La), after his texts go unreturned for a long time.

As the police detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) is searching for Margot in real life, David tries to look for clues from her online social media accounts, as well as the laptop she left behind.    

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While the Internet provides David all the convenience to learn about his daughter’s interests, well-being, and daily routine to figure out her whereabouts, it also puts Margot in the most vulnerable position, since anyone could take advantage of the same information for unknown intentions, as the show itself would reveal.

Considering the cast have to play solo in a lot of the scenes, their performances remains natural and convincing. This is especially true for Cho, who plays the anxious and affectionate father whose impatience grows over the time of search.

The film has a well-knit plot which flows logically all the way, with each scene forming an integral part of it. The story also unfolds with surprises coming one after another.

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With the point-of-view shots of smartphones and computer screens being the film’s only components, both the form and theme of the film demonstrate the pros and cons of the availability and abundance of personal information on the Internet, especially on social media platforms.

The possible danger of the Internet is also powerfully, and further, reinforced by the viewing experience, from which the audience learn about David’s life through clips of skype calls, installed cameras, and live streams.

The intricately designed detective mystery is definitely not one that can be easily solved, but the unsettling feelings it creates would drive your curiosity, and keep you hungry, for the ultimate answer which would only be disclosed in the brilliant twist ending.   

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In addition to the unexpected closure, the satisfaction of Searching comes from the aftertaste it brings, whether it’s the clues, or explanations of character behaviors, that only reveal themselves in retrospect. Moreover, the indirect comparisons drawn between the affected and the inflicted helps to magnify the blood-and-flesh human nature, which makes the lead characters and story all the more complex and realistic.

From the cautiously crafted plot to the innovative representation of invasion of privacy online, Searching is an original and remarkable masterpiece, and an alternative thriller that you shouldn’t miss.

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