The ‘Unfriended’ film series has already utilised the method of telling a story completely from the point of view of a computer screen for the horror genre. It’s no real surprise then that this cost effective method of storytelling is filtering into other genres likes new missing persons thriller ‘Searching’. Told from the perspective of computer & phone screens as well as traffic cameras etc it’s a race against time for Father, David Kim (John Cho) to piece together information in order to find his missing daughter, Margot (Michelle La) before it’s too late.
The story as a whole works very well in providing an effective thriller for audiences. There are plenty of suspects and the screenplay allows for much speculation through its clever and thoughtful construction. The film is most definitely a slow burner with it being good to start but truly fantastic in its climax. There are moments towards the end of the film which are goosebump inducing, the finale is tense and gripping as a result of the careful momentum that is established and built on throughout. The screen gimmick is used well to showcase the way in which social media is used in day to day life but also how it can be used in specific cases like this, for responses of friends and family, media reactions but also in being a useful tool in finding out information about who an individual really is and if their online behaviour might allude to what they will do in real life. However the narrative does take some time to really grip you and I feel like it’s the fault of only telling the story through screens. It’s definitely put to great use at times but I didn’t feel that it was always necessary and this limited setting and point of view did hold the film back slightly in some moments early on.
Despite this the method used here often excels in what it’s trying to achieve. One example of this is the film’s opening sequence in which we learn about the central family of the film through a series of photos and videos saved from a number of years. This sequence conveys humour, drama and emotion in such a concise way and gives the audience all the relevant context they need for the film without any long drawn out exposition. Once the film really gets into the meat of its story there are still attempts at humour, some of these work but others just feel a little misplaced considering the dark content present. This is by no means a major issue though and it’s not what you’ll remember from an otherwise very accomplished thriller. The performances of the relatively small cast are good but for the majority of the time it does feel like the screens are the main performers. It’s often the screens who reveal the major plot points, develop the characters and show us the main action proving that this method of storytelling does work.
After a strong opening sequence ‘Searching’ struggles to fully captivate as a result of its limited method of storytelling. Although given time to develop it quickly utilises all aspects of this more unique storytelling technique and creates a tense, satisfying and emotional thriller. Featuring so many elements of social media the film expertly shows just how everyday life has changed so much in such a quick time and highlights the real dangers that can arise as a result making this techno thriller feel especially relevant for todays audiences but also serving as one that should equally entertain them as well.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 8/10
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