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Given the digital revolution of the last 20 years, it was a matter of time before we got a film set entirely on characters’ computer screens. That was the film Unfriended back in 2014, the horror film spawned a sequel this year, but both films failed to utilize the platform of telling a story on a computer screen to its fullest extent; it hasn’t been until the mystery/thriller Searching that the potential for this new storytelling tool has been tapped.

Searching takes place entirely on computer screens. The story is about a father (John Cho) who after the disappearance of his daughter (Michelle La) attempts to aid the police by searching through his daughter’s inter-web connections.

It’s hard to imagine how a story could be edited using only computer screens but the clever use of screensavers, FaceTime, iMessage, and news streams bring about a narrative that is somehow more immersive than if it had been shot in a more “traditional” way. The gimmick is fun to see in the first few minutes of the film, and as the novelty wears off you realize you’re watching a gripping story as well.

The film establishes the emotional ground of our characters in the first moments of the film, which will surely remind viewers of the first 15 minutes of Pixar’s Up. The mystery then unfolds in a smooth and controlled way, with first-time director Aneesh Chaganty showing incredible restraint in directing his actors for being a novice. Lead actor John Cho, meanwhile, has the difficult task of acting either through phone-calls or with awkward FaceTime angles; nevertheless the actor transfers the desperation and fear of the story with an expert hand.

In short, the film is a mesmerizing thing to watch. If the story alone had been filmed in a conventional manner, the film would still be a worthwhile thriller, but the innovative way that Chaganty has chosen to tell his story is all the more reason to catch this milestone gem.



About Young Critic

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I've been writing on different version of this website since February of 2013. I originally founded the website in a film-buff phase in high school, but it has since continued through college and into my adult life. Young Critic may be getting older, but the love and passion for film is forever young. 

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