Searching review: Aneesh Chaganty’s feature directorial debut is an unmissable treat that will leave you on the edge of your screen.

Searching review by Sacha Hall, June 2018.

Searching Review

I couldn’t get out of the cinema fast enough to impart the simplest and easiest sentence I’ve ever written about Aneesh Chaganty’s feature directorial debut Searching.You have GOT to see this film!

With a whip-smart script co-written by Sev Ohanian and an engaging narrative constructed by its editors Will Merrick and Nick Johnson, Chaganty has created a fresh spin to the genre that is layered, digitally energetic and voyeuristic.

It’s understandable really – considering our immersion in and reliance upon digital technology – to take that cinematic leap from our home screen to the big screen. The feeling that you could be equally watching this film from a digital device rather than from a seat in a movie theatre is just one of the many things that makes Searching such a unique experience. Sure, it’s not a premise that we haven’t seen before, but what sets it apart from films such as Unfriended and Friend Request is the feeling that you are truly engaged and emotionally invested in Margot’s (Michelle La) safe return.

Searching Review

Told entirely from within the frame of digital devices, this suspenseful roller-coaster ride really begins when David Kim (John Cho) realises that his 16-year-old daughter Margot has gone missing. No longer responding to his iMessages, phone calls and FaceTime’s, an investigation is opened lead by Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing). With no forthcoming leads in sight and an increasingly desperate father who is slowly realising the depths to which he truly doesn’t know about his daughter’s life, David decides to check the one place he hasn’t yet looked…his daughter’s laptop.

The content of Margot’s laptop reveals a trail of secrets and revelations that sends the investigation, as well as David’s own search, on a twisting journey that will keep you on the edge of your screen.

Cho is spectacular as a father who quickly becomes increasingly unhinged as revelation after revelation is shared on screen as is Messing, whose stoic yet empathetic performance has you hanging on with every twist and turn. The pace of the film keeps you entirely engaged thanks to the crisp writing and interconnectivities across the arcs. It also has spot moments of humour such as the gun-toting, pot-smoking wannabe gangsta whose online persona is nothing like the Bieber lover he is revealed to be (sound familiar).

Searching Review

What I liked about the film is its realism and the normalisation of familiar digital devices, social media platforms, and search engines. From Mac to Apple, through YouTube, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram to Reddit and OTT content, Chaganty knows his technology – having spent two years developing commercials for tech giant Google as well as creating YouTube spot Seed for Google Glass – and knows how to make it feel believable. It’s as if you’re cyber stalking the narrative in real time.

Sure, it stumbles a couple of times but overall, it’s an ambitious and energetic film that hits the mark in all the right places.  Grab your diary and mark the date; Searching is an absolute must see this summer.

Whilst UK audiences will have to wait until 3 August 2018, you can get an early check out of the film at the Edinburgh International Film Festival on 21 June 2018.

Searching review by Sacha Hall, June 2018.

Searching was reviewed at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival.