Movie Review: “Searching”
The Kims were a happy family, but everything changed when Pamela (Sarah Sohn) was diagnosed with cancer. Pamela was David‘s (John Cho) wife and Margot’s (Michelle La) mother and, after she passed away, David and Margot tried to continue on. One night, when Margot does not return from a study group, David knows that something has happened to her. He knows his daughter and knows this is not like her to stay out all night without letting him know, so he calls the police.
Detective Vick (Debra Messing) is quickly assigned to the case and reaches out to David so that she can learn more about his daughter. After their meeting, Detective Vick tasks David with reaching out to Margot’s fellow students and their parents. The hope is that David will learn more about what was going on the night that Margot disappeared. David ends up finding out that his daughter had a very secretive life. He learns that he did not know Margot as well as he thought, but no matter how many secrets he uncovers, he will not stop searching until he knows what happened to his daughter.
The Pros & Cons
The Gimmick (-2pts)
The Clues (+4pts)
The Climax (-3pts)
The Plot (+6pts)
The Brother (-2pts)
Pro: Unpredictable (+10pts)
After seeing the trailer for this movie, it seemed like the trailer gave away the whole thing. We know Margot goes missing, is initially assumed to have been innocent in the whole thing, but David learns she has a secret part of her life. The trailer leads you to be leave she is innocent, then that she has something to do with her own disappearance. This was disappointing because I felt like it spoiled the movie.
Fortunately, the movie has so many unpredictable twists and turns. The trailer really only shows the beginning. From there, the movie kept me guessing and I honestly had no idea what would happen next. This movie was an unpredictable thrill-ride that had my attention locked to the screen in anticipation of the next big reveal. I assumed this would be a predictable plot, but was pleasantly surprised to get plot twist after plot twist (most of which I did not see coming).
Con: The Gimmick (-2pts)
Most people going into this movie will be wondering if the gimmick would get too distracting and if it would limit the manner in which the filmmakers could tell the story, and I was certainly one of those people. The entire movie is told from the point of view of computer screens. It is as if someone did all this research but was using a screen grab tool that recorded the entire thing. I went into the movie skeptical, but had an open mind. After having seen the movie, I was relieved to find out that the filmmakers were not limited by this at all. At points, the audience will even forget about the whole gimmick and will be caught up in the story. That being said, I cannot help but wonder why the filmmakers needed to use this gimmick at all.
The filmmakers used various circumstances to make the audience forget about the gimmick. David video messages Detective Vick, he watches the news by going to news websites, sets up cameras only to watch the recordings later on his computer, and even watches viral YouTube videos pertaining to the case. For the most part, the filmmakers succeeded in making the audience not notice the gimmick, but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth and even seemed silly at times. I mean, really? Your daughter goes missing and the lead Detective decides to mostly communicate with you via video message? I know it is 2018 and all, but come on. Also, what parent if a missing child uses a laptop to watch the news? The filmmakers had the gimmick but put a lot of effort into making the audience not notice it.
Pro: The Clues (+4pts)
The final plot twist seems to come out of nowhere, but the surprise is made even greater when you think about all the clues that were dropped throughout the movie. There were a few of them and, while they were subtle, they pretty much tell you what happened to Margot. It is one of those movies that makes you want to watch it again once you know how it ends, because you will want to see all the subtle hints that were thrown in here. The final reveal was surprising, but I got the impression that the filmmakers had a lot of fun scattering little clues throughout the story. This will make repeat viewings equally entertaining and, more importantly, makes the final reveal more impactful.
Con: The Climax (-3pts)
While the final reveal was certainly shocking, the discovery of Margot’s fate honestly felt pretty anti-climactic. You will have to see the movie to find out what her fate is, but the whole thing is shown to the audience as a news clip from the point of view of the computer screen. Due to this, we do not get any audio from David when he learns his daughter’s fate. We just hear news anchors and watch David reacting. I am not saying that the scene has no impact with the audience, but I felt like it was missing something and did not think it lived up the build up from the rest of the movie.
Pro: The Plot (+6pts)
The plot was so good because it was so simple. The death of a mother drives a wedge in the day-to-day relationship between father and daughter. Then, the daughter goes missing and the father has to uncover her secrets in order to learn the truth. The passing of his wife and disappearance of his daughter, makes audiences automatically sympathize with David. The movie hooks the audience in with David’s relatability, then keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as the mystery unfolds in a riveting way. The plot was strong because it had relatable characters, a gripping (and simple) premise, and had a compelling mystery that kept the audience guessing.
Con: The Brother (-2pts)
I am not going to go into details here, as it would spoil this plot twist. There were a lot of exciting twists and turns in this plot, but this one was far from exciting. The whole thing left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth and had me wishing the filmmakers had spent more time on a different plot point. This whole thing would have worked if the character was David’s friend, but making the character David’s brother made it too easy to be skeptical of David’s theory which made the scene between the two characters pretty awkward.
Grade: B+ (88pts)
Searching seemed like the kind of gimmicky movie that would be watchable at best, but I could not have been more wrong. The filmmakers make it so that you forget about the gimmick altogether. This makes me wonder why they put it in there in the first place. A few aspects were kind of silly. The lead detective primarily communicates with David via video message, instead of meeting with him face-to-face. There are a few more examples of silly behavior to justify the gimmick, but for the most part, the filmmakers did a good job of not making it distracting.
The best part of this movie is the plot. It has a simple premise (loving parent discovers daughter has gone missing) that is easy to get invested in, and is full of twists and turns that will keep audiences gasping on the edge of their seats. The plot twists are frequent and audiences will see few of them coming. This is especially true for the final plot twist despite the many clues that the filmmakers dropped throughout the movie. This is the kind of movie that was riveting to watch and will be fun with repeat viewings where one can spot all the clues that the fillmmakers sprinkled in here. If you were debating whether or not to see this movie, I suggest you give it a shot. It is a thrill-ride that will have you fixed to the screen from start to finish.