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Searching Review!

Jedi Jondee here at San Jose,

Timur Bekmambetov has produced Unfriended (2014) which was a horror movie told all through computer screens, it was followed by Unfriended: Dark Web earlier this year, and now Searching which is a thriller. He calls these films, Screenlife, which has a story unfolding on computers and social media. There is the question of whether a computer screen can tell a compelling story, and I would say the format works the best here. The movie is directed by Aneesh Chaganty, his first film, who also co-wrote the movie with Sev Ohanian. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21st. We get the Kim family assembling pics and videos from their computers, they live in San Jose, California. We are introduced to our lead, David Kim, played by John Cho. He is able to bring a performance with a concerned father who is driven by the search for his daughter. Cho is of course known for playing Sulu in the Star Trek films.

He is married to Pamela played by Sara Sohn who was Hana in Furious 7 (2016) and the Netflix show Sense8 (2015-2017). Then, we have the birth of their daughter, Margot, and Margot growing up. She is given a piano which she grows to love playing next to her mother. Then, we get Margot as a sixteen year old teenager played by Michelle La, who has been on episodes of Mom and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. This is all to establish the family. This is another film with an Asian family. We get Pamela who is diagnosed with cancer, but her treatments have her recovering and she fights it running with David. Slight spoiler ahead! Then, we get a message about a relapse, she is running and falls behind. Pamela is seen in the hospital, a calendar shows her return home, this is moved back, and then deleted entirely. There’s incredible sadness here that sets up the story.

The current time, Thursday May 11, 2017 (the date is in the videos in the trailer), picks up with a FaceTime between David and Margot. He chastises her for forgetting to take out the kitchen trash. David’s brother, Peter (Joseph Lee) contacts him to ask Pamela’s recipe for Kim Chee Gumbo. David notices the jar of marijuana in Peter’s video and Peter puts it away in his kitchen cabinet. Later, Margot FaceTimes on her phone at her study group. We get from the computer screen, David asleep on his bed as his daughter tries to call him twice. Then, contact him through his computer. David FaceTimes to work, we don’t get much of his work past this scene, and is distracted trying to contact Margot. He believes that she has left for her piano lessons, he checks his computer to find the teacher’s number, and also that the lessons are $100 dollars which he has left for Margot. David calls up the piano teacher, Mrs. Shahinian (Sylvia Minassian) and she says that Margot quit lessons six months ago. He discovers that Margot has been depositing the $100 dollars into a Venmo account that is deleted.

David texts his daughter and angry message, then deletes it, and adds a message of how proud Pamela was for Margot before deleting it. David contacts Peter worried, but Peter reassures him. He goes through Pamela’s Facebook page to find the number of Margot’s friend, Isaac. He calls the number and reaches his mother (Melissa Disney) who says they went out on a camping trip. The next day, David FaceTimes Isaac (Connor McRaith) and he says Margot never showed for the camping trip. Now, he calls 911 to report Margot as a missing person. He receives a call from Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) saying she has been assigned to his case and asks him about Margot’s contacts. Messing stars, of course, in the comedy Will & Grace which has recently been revived, but also as a detective in The Mysteries of Laura (2014-2016). Her role here is as a mother who relates to David’s worry for her own son, Robert (Steven Michael Eich). Robert was confronted by a neighbor for taking money from a fake charity, but his mother covered for him. It is surprisingly brilliant and dramatic.

David sees Margot’s laptop in the kitchen trash picture, then goes through it establishing new passwords, and accesses her contacts. He FaceTimes Abigail Nielsen (Briana McLean) who says Margot left the study group and didn’t know much about her. He finds the number of Jonah Emmi (Joseph John Schirle) who says he saw Margot each lunch by herself. She has no friends which surprises David. David contacts all of Margot’s fellow students at Evercreek High School. He finds Margot’s YouCast account and discovers her only friend is someone under the name “fish_n_chips.” Detective Vick has found a fake i.d. that Margot made and tells him that she may have run away. It slowly builds until we get news reports and there is a #FindMargot campaign. This film is a parent’s worst nightmare, uncovering a child’s life on computer which turns out not to be the person a parent knows, seeing an online life more open than a parent’s relationship with the child, and of course the fear of child in danger or even dead. So not recommended for parents; it may be too intense. It’s on the level of Get Out as an independent film, in this case released by Screen Gems, that is taking risks. The film works as a mystery, unraveling a young person’s lonely life, and the dark circumstances of Margot’s disappearance.

Five Laptops out of Five!


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