Entering the theater, I possessed a certain sense of dread. “Oh no, this is just going to be Unfriended 2,” I thought to myself. Unfortunately, that title has already been taken by an actual Unfriended sequel (may God help us all), and instead I was pleasantly surprised by the clever, engaging murder mystery presented in Searching, one of the most tasteful screen share movies of our time.
Presented entirely through the screens of technological devices, Searching tactfully uses applications such as FaceTime to show protagonist and dedicated father, David Kim (John Cho) knee-deep in an investigation on his daughter Margot’s (Michelle La) whereabouts after she suddenly disappears. Breaking into her social media accounts, David attempts to find clues that trace back to Margot’s location, all the while his perception of his daughter radically changing as he discovers a side of her normally kept private, both figuratively and literally.
The most impressive aspect of the film is its ability to shed light on the characters through elements other than dialogue. For instance, the first few minutes of the film delve through photo libraries, showing pictures and video of the Kim family over the years that indicate Margot’s hobbies, the passing of Margot’s mother and the strained relationship that her and her father share as a result. Margot’s social media presence also indicates her lack of companions and her secretive nature.
As opposed to using the screen share format of the film simply to add another layer of horror as seen in Unfriended, Searching instead uses this film style to emphasize visual storytelling more so than verbal storytelling.
As for the plot itself, the mystery was thorough in its twists and turns, keeping viewers guessing for the duration of the entire movie. The film was successful in implementing clues related to the mystery all throughout, sometimes in the suggested links on the side of a web browser, other times through comments and pictures posted on Margot’s social media, bringing all elements of the story full-circle.
No spoilers, but the one part of the plot that I didn’t particularly enjoy was the ending. Similar to my last review on A Simple Favor, I feel as though all loose strings were tied, and by this point, my readers should know that I am a fan of the discordant, ambiguous resolutions. When it comes to mysteries, I understand that the story needs to be wrapped up, but I feel as though a certain level of tension that comes with the mystery genre is the ambiguity that resonates with the viewer after the facts, keeping them guessing and inspiring them to go back and watch again, attempting to attain a new level of understanding. Otherwise, I feel like the re-watch value completely diminishes–you watch the film and you feel satisfied with the entertainment you’ve received–end of story.
Overall, I can say that, aside from the closing scenes, the movie was distinctive in its style and progressive in both its filmmaking and casting, featuring several strong, predominantly Asian leads. The film resonates with viewers its significant message that despite modern technology’s benefits, it’s ability to mask the deeper, darker parts of one’s personality, even from those they love, is the scariest thing of all.