The filmmakers behind Searching, first-time feature director Aneesh Chaganty and his writing partner Sev Ohanian, use modern technology to tell a familiar tale from the desktop of a desperate father searching for his missing teenage daughter. David Kim (John Cho) and his daughter Margot (Michelle La), a high-school sophomore, are still recovering from the death of their beloved wife and mother, Pamela (Sara Sohn). When Margot does not come home one night, and David’s phone calls continue to go unanswered, the father turns to the police, represented by lead investigator Det. Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing). Leads come and go as Margot’s case bounces from missing person to runaway to possible homicide.
Meanwhile, David uses social media to find clues that unravel the mystery of his daughter, who may not be the person he thinks she is. Chaganty rather brilliantly reveals every conversation, email, text, social media post and news story on David’s computer. Unlike the Unfriended features—which are clearly traditional horror movies dressed up in modern techno-garb—to which it is distantly related, Searching taps into the true-crime craze with a little “Catfish” online detective work. Social media and Google image searches play greater roles in solving Margot’s case than traditional gumshoe methods.
Cho anchors the movie, which is nearly a one-man show. Most interactions play out as FaceTime calls between David and any number of persons connected to the case. Without a stalwart lead performance from a perennial supporting player, Searching would be lost. A small movie that plays big, Searching should absorb those alert filmgoers who discover it.
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