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With: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Joseph Lee, Michelle La, Sara Sohn
Written by: Aneesh Chaganty, Sev Ohanian
Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic content, some drug and sexual references, and for language
Running Time: 102
Date: 08/24/2018

Searching (2018)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Screen Savors

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Obviously inspired by the success of Unfriended (2014), this mystery nonetheless ventures in fresh, new directions, while being superbly constructed, emotionally satisfying, and culturally relevant.

In Searching, David Kim (John Cho) has a happy family, watching his daughter Margot grow up, posting pictures and videos to social media. As she hits her teenage years (played by Michelle La), he finds himself raising her alone, and she seems increasingly distant. Finally one day she simply disappears after a supposed study group, and David hits the internet to try and find clues as to where she might have gone.

Her friends don't seem to know much, and he discovers that she has been skipping her piano lessons and stealing the money. A detective (Debra Messing) comes on the case, and time seems to be running out. Can David spot the final clue that will piece everything together?

A debut feature by director Aneesh Chaganty, who wrote the screenplay with producer Sev Ohanian, Searching has the simple goodness to focus on a Korean-American family without making an issue of it. It doesn't matter what culture the Kim family comes from. What matters is what would matter to any human being when a family member is in trouble.

In the lead role, actor Cho does amazing things, performing largely by himself and within unconventional cameras and camera set-ups, reaching new emotional depths. The filmic techniques do recall some of the more effective things used in Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web, but Searching expands the genre's toolbox, going further in both time and space with it.

The screenplay, while suffering a few small, easily forgivable shaky spots, is a thing of beauty, furthering the story with desperate, constant propulsion, and dropping little clues in the most innocuous of places. When it all comes together, it's with a most pleasurable snap.

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