Have you ever watched a movie so damn good that you not only resonate with it on a deeply personal level, but you also just feel a kind of crazy desperation to have someone else watch it and appreciate it just as much as you do? You know the kind of movie that makes you beg for a time machine so that you could go back and experience it again for the first time?
That movie is Searching (2018) for me right now, a humble little thriller film directed by Aneesh Chaganty and starring John Cho, also known as Kimball Cho from the TV series The Mentalist or as Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu from the Star Trek trilogy.
Now I’d be pretty surprised if you know about this movie given how off-the-radar and unassuming it is, but I’d go as far as to say that it’s almost a crime that this movie is not more known than it is especially given how exceptionally relevant the subject matter is.
Nevertheless in an effort to correct the wrongs of the cruel universe I suggest that you gear up, gentlemen and gentleladies, for I’m about to tell you why you need to see this movie.
In a nutshell without giving away any spoilers Searching is about a father whose daughter goes missing, and the only way for him to try and find her is to scour the depths of her laptop and uncover her personal life, piece by piece, only to discover that he does not know as much about his child as he thought he did. It’s a very real fear in the back of any parent’s mind, and as I am going to be a father myself this year you can imagine that it sat with me.
That brings me to the first of the many reasons that this movie is absolutely essential.
It’s The Real World
I know many of you probably watch movies to escape precisely the real world, but now and again ever so rarely there does come a film or series or book that masterfully captures the essence of something so real and close to home that it can’t help but play on your mind for days on end, and that alone is a core component of what makes art meaningful.
Actor John Cho stars as David Kim, a simple man who loves his daughter and tries his best to be a part of her life despite the distance that life inevitably brings as children age.
Let’s be clear about why this movie is different to any other missing child material you’re likely to come across: this ordinary dad is not Liam Neeson.
There are no badass threats delivered through lines that only Liam Neeson could be recorded speaking. There are no bullets flying, explosions going off that our main character is too cool to look at or expensive car chases with fancy gear-switching shots.
David Kim is just an ordinary parent.
The only place for a sensible parent to start looking for their child is by dissecting every single person that they know, and every single thing that they look at online. The internet is a goldmine, and each and every day we log on and leave a piece of our very real selves on it. A digital footprint that communicates a fraction of our identity. Every day we communicate with people, whether its dear friends, acquaintances or people we will never meet.
And anything on there could be key to explaining who may have cause to harm our loved one.
Searching does a mesmerising job of portraying the online world from the perspective of just a normal child. David’s daughter is not an ‘influencer’ (fuck, I hate that word) or internet celebrity by any stretch of the imagination. She does not have thousands of followers who hang onto every tweet, overly revealing selfies that should not be on a public Instagram account or hundreds of Facebook friends that you as a parent will never know and meet. She’s not the most popular or most perfect. She’s your average kid. She posts, she shares and she tries to express herself and part with her voice to anyone who will listen.
She is a child of the internet. Her posts may only be seen by twenty people. They may only receive less than a handful of likes. Still she shares, because there is an inexplicable feeling of comfort that someone out there may hear her voice and resonate with it. Still she shares, to just quell loneliness, even if only for the vague possibility of someone giving back.
And it’s completely heartbreaking as a parent to face the reality that a child may just share more of their heart with strangers than they do with you.
Searching is downright gripping in how it portrays reality without romanticising its victim, or without lobbying the realm of social media. It simply stays true to what it is, and is relentless in keeping you planted on your seat as you dread where it’s going.
It’s Directed Unlike Any Movie You Have Seen
Searching is a unique movie experiment. It’s the type of movie that just won’t work as well if done again, unless a really skilled director takes the helm. However far more likely than not any attempt to do something similar would fail to encapsulate the original much like the slew of weak sequels and competitors to the original Paranormal Activity have failed. Incidentally Paranormal Activity itself did however succeed in delivering a fresh take on the The Blair Witch Project and its found-footage concept, but those two movies were eight years apart.
Well, what makes this movie unique then? It’s that the entire movie is filmed through a smorgasbord of video calls i.e FaceTime, web pages, audio logs, online videos and news broadcasts. It’s insane how well the movie succeeds in making this compelling, when on paper it probably sounded like a ludicrous idea. Though much like the game God of War (2018), which itself pulled off the ridiculous vision of capturing the entire twenty hour experience in a single-take camera shot, Searching reached for the stars and certainly found them.
Piece by piece the mystery is picked apart, and Searching expertly drip-feeds information to its audience in a believable and logical manner. It’s the kind of movie you just have to experience for yourself, because explaining it won’t do justice to the fantastic execution.
Make no mistake, you will not look away during the 102 minutes that this movie runs for.
It’s A Masterpiece In Quality
I imagine that words such as ‘epic’ and ‘legendary’ (thanks How I Met Your Mother) and of course ‘masterpiece’ have surely lost most of their meaning by now. However Searching is deserving of that praise in its original form, as its quality is undeniable.
From the stellar cast that are just as real as the people you should probably watch this with, to the absorbing narrative grounded in skin-crawling realism, to the palpable sense of fear and paranoia that the movie communicates, Searching hits each and every high note in style.
Searching is in my list of top five movies of all time. It’s a movie that brilliantly represents the era we live in without cheapening it. Searching understands it.
Full disclosure here: I generally have iron skin. I don’t ever tend to get emotional, especially for works of fiction. I’m one of those annoying cretins who can make a joke out of anything at all. I’m the reason my wife rolls her eyes a dozen times a day, and calls me a ‘flight risk’.
Perhaps being on the brink of becoming a parent has changed something within me, because I had no jokes to tell while watching Searching. I merely sat, my eyes glued to the screen, unable to focus on anything else except this movie, and by the end of it I was mentally drained. That speaks volumes of the quality of the narrative and film at hand.
Why Aren’t You Watching It Already?
If at this point I still haven’t given you enough reasons to watch Searching, however improbable that is, then allow me to offer you the most compelling reason of all:
That one had to get you on board.
If you’ve been alive at all this year then you’d know that by all accounts it was a legendary one for cinema with memorable quality films like Black Panther, Game Night, Aquaman, A Quiet Place, Deadpool 2, Avengers: Infinity War, A Star is Born and others that are on my list to watch such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Hereditary and Annihilation.
Honestly Searching is the movie that I am going to remember most.
It certainly may not be the most fun you’ll have watching a movie given the material here, but fun is overrated and this film is masterful, so grab a friend and get busy watching.
I don’t even need you to thank me later.
I only need you to make it your mission to watch Searching.