Film Review: ‘Searching’ (No Spoilers)

So as part of “Asian August,” I (you can read my review of “Crazy Rich Asians here”) got to see Searching as part of a #goldopen effort to promote the film, which opened this past weekend (but first debuted at Sundance) in a very limited release – nine theaters (and opens nationally Friday, August 31st) actually starring John Cho (#starringJohnCho). From the film’s website:

After David Kim (John Cho)’s 16-year-old daughter goes missing, a local investigation is opened and a detective is assigned to the case. But 37 hours later and without a single lead, David decides to search the one place no one has looked yet, where all secrets are kept today: his daughter’s laptop. In a hyper-modern thriller told via the technology devices we use every day to communicate, David must trace is daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.

First and foremost, this is a suspense thriller (and NOT a horror film) and not what would typically characterize as an “Asian American” film (though in the interview, Cho has a broader definition of what that is). In fact, the only way you really know that Cho is a Korean American is his last name, a reference to some recipe his brother is looking for and some Korean words I believe referencing to some grandparents or relatives.

I enjoyed this film quite a bit, mostly because it was very original in concept and in the story line, with MANY twists and turns and there are some tense scenes where you are genuinely wondering what is going to happen next.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when seeing the film, but a friend who I saw the film with reminded me of the “Modern Family” episode which all took place on computer screens:

The film actually works a lot better than I had expected through the lenses of the difference screens and cameras we interact with everyday.

John Cho does a terrific job coming across as a very concerned, agitated father (and I had seen quite a few comments on Facebook from fathers not wanting to see the film based on the premise given that they had daughter(s)). I didn’t know actress Debra Messing (who plays Detective Rosemary Vick) until Olympian Michelle Kwan had tweeted out that she had done a buyout of the film in support of her friend Messing,and does a good job of portraying a calm detective looking at all the facts. Michelle La is great as Margot Kim, as David Kim’s daughter, as well as Joseph Lee as David Kim’s brother, Peter.

Interestingly, the writer/director Aneesh Chaganty used to work at Google:

“Aneesh Chaganty, writer and director of Searching, a Sony Pictures feature film, quit a job at Google to make movies. The USC film graduate worked for two years at the Google Creative Lab in NYC, writing and directing Google commercials. But he always wanted to make movies, so he left what others would see as a dream job to go after his dream career.

Searching opens in limited release on August 24 and nationwide on August 31. The movie has already received good reviews and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. But when Chaganty left his steady job in 2015 to spend two years working with a shoestring crew and equipment (“we were five recent graduates and two IMacs”), there was no guarantee of success.””

From searching (get it) on LinkedIn, Chaganty graduated from USC in 2013! So Chaganty is a very young filmmaker and I would say has a very promising career ahead of him and reminds me when I was his age (27) of when a former aerospace engineering manager asked me why I didn’t go to film school after high school after seeing a bunch of videos I had shown him that I had made in high school at my local public access television station (like I really had an options in 1989 as a Taiwanese American Model Minority …)

From the film, you obviously also come to realize (or re-realize) how much of a digital footprint we leave. And if I ever have kids, I will totally want to monitor and understand what my kids are doing on their computers and smartphones!

Additionally, this film takes place in the greater San Jose / San Francisco Bay Area, so it’s kind of neat for someone who lives in the area to see references (like to local news stations), highways and locations even though I don’t think most of the film was shot in the area.

I recommend this film to anybody who is interested in suspense / thriller / mystery films or who is interested in the unique format the story is told. Searching’s latest Rotten Tomatoes score (as of this writing) is 92% (66 reviews).

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Author: John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)