Cast: John Cho, Debra Messing, Michelle La, Joseph Lee
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Rating: * * * *
Tech devices like mobile phones, pcs and laptops have featured in short sequences in various movies. In ex-Google employee Aneesh Chaganty’s debut feature, the entire tale is told via devices we use to communicate daily. This conceit is innovative even as the actual story within is an old-fashioned whodunnit.
The central character in this thriller is widower David Kim, (John Cho, super) who shares a seemingly close bond with his only child Margot (Michelle La). One night, Kim misses a frantic call from his daughter. The next morning she’s gone, missing without a trace.
Secondary characters offer a variety of explanations. Detective Vick, the woman cop (Debra Messing) investigating the case suggests Margot has run away, which Kim dismisses (“I know my daughter”.) Director and co-screenwriter Chaganty weaves smart twists and turns into the plot (with co-writer Sev Ohanian in his debut feature) to present the contemporaneous existential problem of online personae versus offline reality.
While Vick and her colleagues look for the missing girl around the sites she was last seen, Kim casts his inquisitory net over the laptop she had strangely forgotten to take for what was supposed to be a late-night group study session at a friend’s place. He is in for a rude shock. Margot’s social media footprints show he never really knew his daughter. Like fire, the internet can be a dangerous and utilitarian and the film-makers stress the need for honesty and better communication.
There are red herrings too with developments implying the guilt of secondary characters through circumstantial evidence. For example, a hardened drug-dealing youth who is reluctant to explain his whereabouts turns out to have been attending a Justin Bieber concert! Searching is as clever as its creator Chaganty and it is my earnest hope that he stays the course like the protagonist, goes on to make even more brilliant films and is not given short shrift by the same forces that have marginalised brilliant film-makers like M Night Shyamalan and Tarsem Singh.