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“Searching” is one of the most surprising films of the summer

Last week, one of the better films of the summer, and in fact, all of 2018, opened up in limited release. It’s the Sundance Film Festival alum Searching, poised to be another success story from Park City. More than just a strong Sundance flick, it’s a riveting mystery that also executes terrific family dynamics. You could be forgiven for thinking that it’s just another film that has a unique filmmaking style and nothing more. Folks, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Having everything take place on a computer screen is a bold choice, but it’s actually one that enhances the movie. It’s an under the radar gem, ladies and gentlemen.

The film is a thriller, one with a well executed high concept, to boot. This is the plot synopsis from IMDb: “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 his daughter’s digital footprints before she disappears forever.” As David becomes more and more worried about what happened to Margot (Michelle La), he and Detective Vick (Debra Messing) continue piecing together her life. What David discovers shakes him to his core. Aneesh Chaganty co-writes with Sev Ohanian and directs, while the small supporting cast also includes Joseph Lee. Music is by Torin Borrowdale, while the unique cinematography is done by the team of Juan Sebastian Baron (the official cinematographer), Nicholas D. Johnson, and Will Merrick (the editors who also handled the virtual cinematography).

I didn’t get a chance to rave about this one last week, as things got a little bit too busy, but the movie is really tremendous. Every bit of praise you might have seen so far is well deserved. Cho turns in a nuanced performance, while the filmmaking style actually brings out more tension in an already riveting story. There’s a small downtown in the third act when things get a little bit ridiculous, but up until then, it’s enthralling, moving, sad, and the sort of thing where you’re unable to look away. Chaganty has crafted something above and beyond here.

Something that shouldn’t be lost in all of this is how nice it is to see representation be successful in cinema. Crazy Rich Asians is making a ton of money, while Searching is lighting it up in limited release. Later on this week, it should do some strong work at the box office too. For anyone who complains (and how could you complain?) about diversity, just know that audiences want this. 99% of the movies are still lily white, so that’s not changing. However, a wider swarth of individuals deserve to see their stories up on the big screen. Moreover, genre fare should reflect diversity too. When this happens, we all win.

This weekend, Searching goes wide and is a must see, in the absolute truest sense. The film will surprise you in all of the best ways. The style is unique, the lead performance is terrific by Cho, and the ending likely will shock you. While it doesn’t quite make my top ten for the year so far, it’s a grand bit of small scale cinema that deserves your immediate attention. The less you know about Searching, the better, as it has the capacity to truly surprise. Take my advice, go in as blind as possible, and enjoy. You can thank me later…

Be sure to check out Searching, in theaters now on a limited basis and expanding nationwide on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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