[Review] Searching

With all the hype surrounding Crazy Rich Asians, everyone quietly forgot about another Hollywood film with a lead Asian cast. “Searching” stars Korean American actor John Cho – who’s probably most known for his role in Harold & Kumar – who plays the main role of distraught dad David Kim who finds out that his teenage daughter, Margot (Michelle La) has gone missing.

In the beginning of the movie, we see how the family chronicles their daily life on a Windows interface – from Margot’s first piano lesson to her mother Pam’s battle with cancer and her eventual death. From then onwards, it switches to something more familiar to the rest of us: an Apple interface.

What’s interesting is that much of the movie explains the timeline of events simply through a desktop scene – you only see what David types, sees, or does on the computer without much face-to-face interaction. Even David and Margot rarely communicate in person, choosing instead to use a variety of apps like FaceTime and iMessage to talk to each other (it does sound like an ad for Apple, though).

Even after Margot fails to return home, David doesn’t go all Liam Neeson in “Taken” – he simply goes online, using his daughter’s social media accounts like Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Youcast to figure out the case.

Although this is not entirely a new concept – “Unfriended” also uses a similar style – it conveys the story much more efficiently, and sometimes quite hilariously.

In one scenario, a teenage boy David calls is very reluctant to reveal his whereabouts during the time Margot disappeared, but when he finally confesses, we don’t get to hear it. Instead we see a desktop screen into which David types “Bieber Concert (confirmed)”.

David quickly finds out that all of Margot’s ‘friends’ – both at school and online – hardly know her at all. An invisible wedge has also been driven between father and daughter ever since the death of Pam – David’s wife and Margot’s mother – not long ago. It’s a classic trope of how parents don’t really know their children. Even Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), the lead detective assigned to his case, suggests that Margot may simply be trying to run away.

The story really picks up pace when Margot’s car is found at the bottom of a lake, without a body. Suddenly the mystery changes from “who is Margot?” to “where is Margot?” – and David’s further digging of her social media brings up some very interesting and disturbing twists in the story.

The first comes in the form of David’s younger brother who is close to Margot, and the second involves Rosemary, the lead detective. The story takes you from something familiar to something that throws you completely off track.

At the end, the movie is a good example of how you can try to hide what you do, but social media (and the internet) reminds us that nothing is really secret, and that you can’t hide for long.