Movie review: John Cho makes Searching stellar
It is not a horror movie, but if you are a parent of a teenager, Searching could scare you into a month of sleepless nights.
And if you are a teen or nearly one, you should also be scared, because after seeing this, your parents are going to be asking you a lot of awkward questions.
Yes, this thriller plays on that classic parental fear: Do you really know your child?
The difference here is that it is framed through the conceit of watching everything unfold through the windows of various apps and browsers on a desktop.
So while the premise is not uncommon, the execution powers the film beyond the gimmick. No mean feat.
It is similar to the experiment that was 2014's Unfriended. The difference here is that Searching has added a very special ingredient – good acting.
John Cho is utterly convincing in the role of harrowed dad and widower, essentially a fish-out-of-water detective investigating an unfamiliar world with its cast of questionables – in this case, self-obsessed classmates, indifferent acquaintances and Internet trolls.
Rather than letting the film coast on basic thrills, it is his anguish in unfolding his daughter's secret life that brings real heart to the role, pulling us in deeper.
Admittedly, Searching does require buying into the conceit that the favoured form of online communication is FaceTime.
But other than that, this is a skilled use of communication technology – an aspect of our lives we are all too familiar with.
In an introduction that attempts a similar fast-track to heartache aced by the Pixar's classic Up, we swiftly follow David Kim, his wife Pamela and daughter Margot from the announcement of Margot's birth to family tragedy, all while staying true to the technologies of that 16-year span.
Aside from a brief moment where the action falls out of gear, Searching keeps you guessing.
The lull gives way to a gripping second half that piles on the trepidation.
The best recommendation I can give – and something very few films manage these days – is that I did not guess the ending.
It was an option but never a foregone conclusion.
It's something that even the biggest films fail to do, often heavily sign-posting their intentions so early you have to wait for the film to arrive at your conclusion. In this regard, Searching is a real treat.
This is director Aneesh Chaganty's debut feature, and considering he manages to wrench this much edge-of-the-seat tension despite the self-imposed restriction of head-and-shoulders shots of people staring into the camera, his next feature could be astounding.