There are many times in which films have a “fad” attached to the film that may, or may not elevate the film. For myself, Birdman is more interesting as a film solely because of the “one-shot” gimmick. While at the same time, the fact that Boyhood was actually shot across 12 years elevates the film. Searching is a film where the gimmick could go either way, but as the film opens to that classic Windows theme, I knew it would work to its advantage.
The movie begins in a sequence in which we see the beginning of Margot’s life accompanied by what happens to her mother Pamela by using home videos and pictures of some of Margot’s first days at schools. It’s here where the film became one of the most recent important films to watch in the theatres. While yes, my belief is to always watch a movie on the biggest screen possible and I love the communal experience of experiencing a film together, but there’s something about the way we as a community cried during the opening sequence. As well as also scream out of frustration and pure insanity.
Last year, my favourite film of the year was Good Time and I described it as a roller coaster ride, but if I could, I’d take that back. This is the cinematic equivalent of a roller coaster. To be clear, I will not spoil anything of the movie that the trailer doesn’t hint at, but the amount of twists and turns in this film will leave you shaking in your seat. Personally, I was. At one point I took my straw out of my cup and began chewing on it.
There are many ways that this film works for the audience. Going back to Boyhood for an example, that movie used pop culture references to narrow down what year we were in (songs, the Star Wars mentions) and we have the same thing with Searching. We see the age in difference by what operating system the family computer is using. How Pamela’s account is dated, but David’s is updated. And eventually, Margot has a Mac. As an audience, we understand the differences in technology, the time that has passed.
On top of that, as the film takes place on a screen, by definition, the viewer, becomes the protagonist. There’s no way you can’t question what you would do in that situation where your daughter is missing, and the searches you would make. Or the way you second guess sending a text message that says “Mom would be proud.” You are screaming at the screen, or David, or even ourselves at doing the right thing even when the insanely unthinkable has happened.
The film is expertly led by John Cho who plays the frantic David Kim. I recently fell for John during the wonderful Columbus, and it’s great to see an Asian-American leading the film as always. Alongside him is Debra Messing as Detective Vick, the Detective that is on the case to find Margot. And then we have Margot which is the heart of the film.
During the opening sequence that rips your heart out even quicker than the one from Pixar’s Up, we find out that Margot loses her mother. And it’s clear that this teenage girl very much needs her mother, or to be able to properly grieve over it as a family. Michelle La is a star in her limited time. Due to the intense situation, you’re constantly watching footage of her for clues, but in the end, it’s just this immense sadness that you can sense from her.
The subtlety that is on Margot’s face is so nuanced and heart-breaking. The way that John Cho acts alone is so intense, but controlled it’s hard not to be amazed at it. And finally, the direction and the editing behind the film is a marvel. It’s a huge accomplishment to finish a film in the first place but to have something so meticulously crafted and layered, it’s phenomenal.
Aneesh Chaganty directed the film, and on Twitter, he posted a wonderful note. In it, he mentions at how at an early age, he fell in love with cinema, like people who attend this site might have. And he saw a picture of someone who looked like him (M. Night Shyamalan) and realized this is what he wanted to do. It took 19 years to make a movie, but he made an exquisite one. One that is solely and entirely original, and even though its plot can be simplistic, it is absolutely ground-breaking.
Searching is the film of the summer. The one that must be viewed in a room of your peers because the way you’ll react together is something we barely do. For once, we aren’t isolating ourselves while looking at our computer screen but rather joining together in the hope that everything will be okay.