Who would have thought a story told exclusively through computer screens could be so tense and moving?
Yet, somehow, that’s exactly what director Aneesh Chaganty has managed to accomplish with Searching.
The film draws on the ‘ScreenLife’ film-making technique heralded by producer Timur Bekmambetov in his 2015 film Unfriended.
But while low-budget horror Unfriended failed to make a huge splash in the pop cultural ocean, Searching has the potential to reach a much wider audience.
The new film follows a single dad in the days following his daughter’s mysterious disappearance.
David Kim (John Cho, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) must trawl through the online world his daughter Margot inhabited before she failed to come home one night.
The more he tries to find out what happened to her, the more he realises he didn’t know his 16-year-old daughter very well at all.
It is truly remarkable how harrowing it can be to watch a father descend into desperation through webcam and Facebook footage, a few mouse clicks and some cursor flashes.
Cho, typically a comedy actor, excels as David Kim. He is entirely relatable and uses all the tools at his disposal – right there on his laptop screen – to investigate his daughter’s disappearance.
Another typically more light-hearted star – Debra Messing (Grace of Will and Grace) – appears alongside Cho as the lead investigator on the case.
She is pared back and raw, a great balance to Cho’s highly-strung energy.
Searching has a lot of emotion.
Its opening sequence draws on the tear-jerking prologue from Up and perfectly sets up David and Margot’s lives.
The film explores the symbiosis between modern human life and the online world. It looks at our complete reliance on technology to live our lives, express our emotions and fears and present our faces – however manicured and tailored – to the world.
The film-makers drop a great deal of breadcrumbs to help viewers solve the central mystery, but it’s not until all the pieces come together at the end that we can see the full picture.