Think of how much time we spend looking at screens. I’m looking at one (with various windows open) as I write this review. You’re reading it on a screen. We work and play and often socialize through the many screens of our lives. Searching tells us its story through these screens. To use such a gimmick can be a distraction or even a way of covering up shortcomings. But in Searching it becomes a vital part of the story and of the social commentary the film is making.
The film opens with the setting up of a new computer and adding photos that outline the life of the Kim family. It brings us up to the current day where David Kim (John Cho) and his daughter Margot (Michelle La) live in Silicon Valley. We catch their texting pack and forth, typical parent/teen conversations. But when Margot doesn’t come home one night and doesn’t answer texts or calls, David becomes worried. At first there are possible simple explanations, but eventually he must call in the police. While Detective Vick (Debra Messing) oversees the police investigation, David begins hacking into Margot’s laptop, searching for clues and leads. Everything that we see on the movie screen are things that are taking place on computer, phone, or TV screens.
As the story plays out we get a minor guided tour of the internet, including Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest, Facetime, and a range of other apps. To some extent this plays up the gimmicky side of the film. But it also serves as an effective way to organize this thriller with increasing tension. And the use of social media is an essential part of the thriller. And it is a rollercoaster ride of a thriller with the ups and downs, twists and turn in the last half hour especially enjoyable.
Where this becomes more than just a gimmick is how the film serves to reflect our culture and the way we live so much of our lives—whether actively or passively—online. Our screens are our archives. The screens hold our secrets. The screens give us access to a broad world. The screens also make us vulnerable. There are ways in which the screens that fill our lives make us voyeurs—looking at the world from the outside. But the screens also give us a way to discover and connect people and place in ways both positive and negative. The potential of our screens, however, really rely not in what we watch, but in how we choose to engage them. That is the lesson that underlies the thriller aspect of Searching.
Photo Credits: Sebastian Baron, Elizabeth Kitchens. ©2018 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved.