Sunday, September 23, 2018

Review of SEARCHING: Online Ordeal

September 21, 2018

Nowadays, we beleive that the internet is a miracle in keeping us in touch with everyone around us, even oceans apart. However, more and more it has been noted that this online communication is actually making relationships more distant and less personal. People are even messaging each other within the same house. After "Disconnect" (2013) and "Unfriended" (2014), there could never be enough cautionary tales about the internet.

David Kim is raising his teenage daughter Margot as a single parent since his wife Pam passed away. Since she left home to live in a dorm on campus, David made sure they kept regularly in touch via private messaging and video calls. One day, Margot suddenly never responded to any of David's messages. He frantically searched for any possible contacts for any leads. Failing to make any progress, he reported her missing with the police, with Detective Rosemary Vick assigned to his case.

The whole story was told via various messaging apps, home videos, online photo albums, video blogging sites, security cameras, smart phone, home computer and any other gadget that uses the internet. The film "Unfriended" (2014) did this technique first for a horror story about cyber-bullying victim getting even from beyond the grave. "Searching" isa basically a family drama about a missing child, but it might as well also be a horror film, especially for the parents watching.

I first knew Korean-American actor John Cho from his stupid Harry and Kumar films from a little over ten years ago. He's gotten more respectability playing Sulu in the rebooted Star Trek films. This role as David Kim is probably his most serious one to date. He had this harassed and stressed out appearance which was so fit for the role. We share his alarm and guilt for the things he never knew about his only daughter, and feel his anxiety throughout the seemingly futile search. 

The role of Margot was played by various child actresses at ages 5, 7, 9 and finally by Michelle La as a teenager. Cast here in her feature film debut, La mostly played it downbeat and aloof, as introvert teens are wont to be. The role of Detective Rosemary Vick was played by an actress also more well-known to me as a comedian -- Debra Messing, yes, that was Grace Adler from "Will & Grace". She was dead serious here in this role, and not immediately recognizable without her bright red hair and toothy smile.  

This film will make parents reflect on how well they know their children or not. Do we really know their friends and contacts online, or not? Do we know who to call when we lose contact with them? Even the best of kids may have their online secrets. In the film, Margot had been siphoning the monthly allowance meant for piano lessons into what seemed to be a secret bank account. Do we really know what our kids are doing online? Director Aneesh Chaganty did his work so well, such that watching this absorbing film became quite a harrowing experience for a parent like me. 8/10. 

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