Literally bringing small screen drama to the big screen, social media POV thriller “Searching” may be the most slyly political movie of 2018. To say much more than that would be to spoil the story’s twists and turns and while they’re all Who knew that your search history would be the key to finding someone missing? Searching (2018) #Reviewforeshadowed with a heavy-handed clumsiness, the fun’s in when you figure it all out, rather than whether.
When his 16-year-old daughter goes missing, David Kim (John Cho) turns to social media to try to unravel his daughter’s last few hours, with the help of Police Detective 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) but David discovers far more than he suspected as he unravels his daughter’s complex online life.
At its core, Aneesh Chaganty’s directorial feature debut works as a competent, taut thriller, replete with red herrings and game-changing reveals. Its real triumph is that it manages to keep its main gimmick from every really feeling gimmicky thanks to the social media setting being used not just to further the mystery but also deliver a critique of the perils and pitfalls of modern digital life.
John Cho gives a terrific performance as the father, still grieving the loss of his beloved wife, who discovers the digital interactions with his daughter had, in fact, masked a growing estrangement and the twin blows to his psyche of the disappearance and the revelations that she had been hiding a secret life from him power the emotional heart of the movie.
The small cast is solid, the characters feel authentic and its observations on modern life feel both poignant and faintly depressing. Social media, we were told, was a tool to bring us closer together but as “Searching” shows, it can be a powerful force for alienation and deception.