“I didn’t know her. I didn’t know my daughter.”David Kim
Rarely is a filmmaking gimmick stretched across an entire film as effective as Searching’s construction solely from items on a computer screen — from FaceTime and instant messaging to web searches and streaming video — in this thriller for the social media age. Opening with the nostalgia of the instantly recognisable Windows XP desktop, we are introduced to the Kim family through a 5-minute montage that unfolds like a heartbreaking version of Google’s advertisements. This settles us into the slick editing techniques that Nicholas Johnson and Will Merrick employ throughout, creating motion in static screens through slow zooms and pans. The real benefit of Searching’s conceit is the voyeuristic sense of discovery as we learn about the missing Margot through her private accounts (an approach I have seen in videogames rather than cinema), though this exploration comes at the cost of the other characters who are sketched in only the depth required by the plot. John Cho has the most screen time but, although his strong performance elicits emotional investment, it is difficult to connect with an individual through only their screen-based interactions. Rarely can the camera sit with a character and their thoughts. The writing is as taut as any recent thriller, with frequent twists in the investigation and a satisfying, if somewhat abrupt, denouement. Searching is ideal for those who desire the voyeurism of true crime without the exploitation of a real tragedy.