Searching (2018)

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Searching is a 2018 American thriller film that came from the Sundance Film Festival (Jan 2018), and went into limited release (like only 9 theaters?) recently, and will be one of the most memorable movies of the year for me. As a thriller it's pretty good (not great) story about a father (John Cho / Harold of Harold and Kumar), trying to find his missing teenage daughter, with the help of a police detective (Debra Messing). What makes it fresh and interesting is that it's a story about a Dad learning about his daughter through her social media and computer accounts, and is shot from the point-of-view of watching someone's life play out via Social Media. So everything is seen through the computer screens/windows or smart phones (video chat, video and news clips, search results, and so on). This isn't as disruptive as one might think, at least for people that are used to doing this stuff regularly. I'm not sure I'd want every film shot in this style, for but this one movie it worked well for me, and my wife -- and wasn't disruptive or disjointed at all. It made it fresh, with good enough acting and story to get a 91/86 on rotten tomatoes -- and I felt it deserved more than that, just for a unique take on a well worn genre, as well as the messages contained within.


The story starts with a computer booting and people putting major events in their lives online. But the implications aren't that heavy handed on Social Media being all good or all bad -- it's just a medium, and how people use it, is both. You watch some people getting more connected and breaking out of their loneliness by using various apps and services, while others are being insensitive assholes. It ends up telling rich stories, through the constraints of our digital lives.

One of my favorite videos is Embrace the shake by Phil Hansen -- an artist that suffered from tremors and thought his life's ambition was gone. Until he overcame and learned how our limitations can expand us as we work around them, or adapt to them. Human willpower and creativity can find a way to conquer obstacles. That's how I felt about this movie, by constraining how it would be shot, it made the movie into something far more than it would have been, if they'd just used the metaphors and mediums that we're used to.

The story itself is nice too. It has tragedy, drama, and people being people (good and bad, sometimes making the right or wrong decisions). Jumping to conclusions with partial information, and perseverence. The fact that it's all shot in San Jose, and I know many of the areas or sites referenced, makes it a bit more interesting as well. But Silicon Valley is the right venue for a story about Social Media and the implications to humanity. If you feel like the struggling to find it while it is in theaters, it's worth the time. Though there's nothing that inherently requires a big screen, I feel like watching it on a computer or a small screen would lose something -- but still be worth it.