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Searching

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What caught my eye about Searching was its primarily Asian cast. However, this movie had nothing to do with Asian culture at all. In fact, there wasn't a single line in the movie remotely related to the race of the characters. Instead, it was a straight forward suspense thriller about a father's hunt to find his missing daughter. I found this surprisingly refreshing. Basically, the roles were cast by Asian actors even though there was no particular need for it.

The story began with an introduction to the Kim family. David Kim (played by long time Hollywood actor John Cho) and his wife, Pamela, seemed to have the perfect family with the arrival of their daughter, Margot. As Margot grew up, she and her mother developed a strong bond, especially over their love of the piano. Sadly, Pamela later on died of a terminal illness, leaving David and Margot behind. On the surface, the father and daughter seemed to continue on fine. However, when Margot disappears, it was then when David learned how the death of Pamela had affected his daughter. With the help of detective Rosemary Vick (played by Debra Messing), David began a frantic search for Margot using all of the modern day resources he can.

After about ten minutes into the movie, most of the audience will notice that the whole story was told through a computer screen. One may think that it would be impossible to tell a complete story in this format. However, the movie's director and co-writer, Aneesh Chaganty, daringly and effectively overcame this limitation. For example, most of the characters' interaction was done via a combination of text messages, FaceTime, VOIP phone calls, and instant messaging. In fact, there was only one scene where the characters had significant dialogue in the same room. In addition, Chaganty also used a series of home videos, email excerpts, and online news casts to unfold the story. Even the passage of time was cleverly conveyed using old versions of Windows and old designs of web sites like Ebay and YouTube. And believe it or not, I even got a sense of the characters' thought process and emotional state by what they searched on Google and pauses in what they were typing.

The fact that it was possible to tell the whole story through a computer screen is a testament to how much our lives today are tied to our devices, and I believe Chaganty purposely made a point of this in the movie. This was particularly evident when news of Margot's disappearance became public. Not only did the discussion of the story quickly spread on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Reddit, but some characters actually exploited the news for their own popularity by spreading false statements and rumors on these outlets.

Like many mysteries, Searching had a surprise ending. I won't spoil it, but I will say that there were clues throughout the movie if you pay really close attention. Although I wasn't wow'ed by the ending, everything made sense and tied up the story nicely.

Searching reminded me of the Liam Neeson movie Taken, except the hero was an everyday father with a regular job in today's digital world. The most interesting and intriguing aspect of this movie was definitely how the story was told via a computer screen. However, in addition to that, it was also a suspenseful mystery that had me on the edge of my seat at times. Unlike some mysteries which conclude in an open-ended manner leaving the audience to interpret what actually happened, I finished watching this film with a feeling of satisfaction that comes from a story well told.
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