Searching

Year: 2018
Directed by: Aneesh Chaganty
Starring: John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michelle La.

WRITTEN BY LUCY BUGLASS

In this digital age, we’ve seen an emergence of films which puts social media and technology at the centre of their narratives. As an example, Unfriended and Friend Request utilise social as a backdrop for horror due to how easy it is to be anonymous online and post truly awful things about people, with dire consequences. With so many of the population frequently using social platforms, it’s unsurprising that filmmakers are choosing to use this as a way of resonating with the modern audience and offering a fresh take on filmmaking.

Searching, on the other hand, uses social media and modern communication to solve the disappearance of a teenage girl. The film focuses primarily on the girl’s father as he searches her laptop and phone for clues into where she could have gone. I can understand people’s apprehension after hearing this synopsis as it took risks and could’ve been terrible from start to finish. Thankfully for me, I loved every minute of it and it’s a strong contender for one of my top films of the year. It’s unique, it’s ambitious and it’s a fantastic piece of storytelling from start to finish. For those who love thrillers and moments that get you on the edge of your seat, this film is absolutely for you. I haven’t seen a thriller this compelling in such a long time.

The entire film is told through FaceTime conversations, webpages, text messages and other forms of online communication. Throughout the course of the film we never see anyone filmed outside of a computer screen, which really helped to set the scene for me. As an audience member I felt like I was physically looking through someone else’s computer, thus helping contribute to the search for missing teenager, Margot Kim (Michelle La). I loved the attention to detail in this film as you’re constantly searching for clues and looking at email subjects, desktop icons, etc to see if you can crack the case. So much effort went into putting all this together and creating the digital footprints of fictional characters, to the point where they feel so real.

In particular, the opening montage of the film is incredibly poignant and the way they told a story purely through messages, videos, etc is stunning. I was impressed with how well they managed to pull it off. I thought the pacing was excellent and the way it teases the audience by not showing us full messages or making us wait for an answer makes us feel even closer to the investigation. I wished I really had access to all the information so I could click on things myself. I also loved the use of hashtags and comments during the event as it feels like exactly how people would react to widespread news, both positively and negatively. Wherever there’s a serious incident, there’s always a few trolls lurking online to cause drama.

John Cho is excellent in his portrayal of recently widowed father David Kim. He experiences a whirlwind of emotion that is clear through both his video conversations and text messages. The relationship between David and Margot is strained and the script illustrates this perfectly, feeding the audience snippets of information until we’re able to put together the full picture of who they are and how they interact with each other. A few of the scenes made me well up as they were so emotionally charged and it’s hard not to feel the despair that he’s feeling. Equal praise must be given to the supporting actors; Debra Messing’s detective character is three dimensional, compelling and utterly invested in the case. Michelle La’s performance of Margot gives us an insight into the life of a teenage girl, where things aren’t always as they seem. The quality of acting throughout is superb and gripping.

Searching is unlike any modern thriller I’ve seen, and actually knows how to do social media and the online world right, without being gimmicky. It’s an unpredictable film that will grip you from the moment you sit down to watch until the final credits roll. Aneesh Chaganty knows how to write a thoroughly engaging and entertaining script, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

LUCY’S RATING:

5

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Fiona’s March Round-Up

Written by Fiona Underhill

While the UK enjoys the quality of Oscar-nominated films such as ‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Lady Bird’ in the first few months of the year, the first quarter can be something of a barren wasteland in US cinemas. We did get ‘Paddington 2’ in January and of course, there has been ‘Black Panther’, but other than that, there have been slim pickings to choose from. But, like buses, they can all suddenly come along at once and I’ve seen 5 films in the last week that have greatly improved my year in film. Below is a round-up of my movie-watching month, which has ranged in quality, but certainly hasn’t been boring!

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Gringo

(starring David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Joel Edgerton & Thandie Newton)

‘Gringo’ stars Oyelowo as a businessman working for his friend (Edgerton) and his colleague (Theron) at a pharmaceutical company. The three of them go to Mexico on a business trip, which unbeknownst to Oyelowo is connected to the drug trade. There Oyelowo gets embroiled with drug dealers, traffickers, kingpins and mercenaries (including another great turn from Sharlto Copley) while trying to stay alive and ahead of the law. Although amusing at times, ‘Gringo’ has big tonal problems and inconsistencies. Theron is playing an unlikeable, edgy character, demonstrated by her saying things like “fat people are so funny” and Newton’s character is handled offensively at the end. Great cast, but disappointing execution.

Verdict: 4/10

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A Wrinkle in Time

(starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon & Mindy Kaling)

Despite its critical reception, I really enjoyed ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ and crucially, so did my 8 year old (the target audience of this film). An adaptation of a beloved children’s book, we follow Meg Murry (Reid) on an adventure across space and time. With stunning visual effects and incredible costume, hair and make-up design; this film was a feast for the eyes. It also featured an emotional story, with two children on a quest to find their missing father and I struggled to hold it together towards the end. Featuring some astounding performances from the child/teen actors, I really loved this film and recommend it to families during the spring/Easter holidays.

Verdict: 8/10

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The Hurricane Heist

(starring Toby Kebell, Maggie Grace & Ryan Kwanten)

Last year’s ‘Geostorm’ spoiled us in terms of trashy disaster movies (a genre which I adore), but ‘Hurricane Heist’ is possibly even better, if you can believe it. Everything you need to know is right there in the title: it’s about a heist that takes place during a hurricane. I don’t know what else to tell you.

Verdict: 10/10

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Flower

(starring Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott)

‘Flower’ follows Erica (Zoey Deutch) a troubled 17 year old girl who spends her time giving blowjobs to men and then blackmailing them for money so she can try to bail her father out of prison. Her world is disrupted when her step-brother Luke (who she has never met) leaves rehab and moves in with her. Luke accuses a local man Will (Adam Scott) of having abused him while he was his teacher, so Erica and her friends set out to avenge him with some vigilante justice. Despite a strong cast, led by another winning performance from Zoey Deutch, this film was a little problematic, with unlikeable characters and will end up proving rather forgettable. I’m frankly getting a little tired of teen girl characters being written and directed by men.

Verdict: 6/10

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Final Portrait

(starring Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer & Tony Shalhoub)

The release date for this film has been all over the shop, but it’s now on UK Netflix and I managed to find one cinema showing it in LA. Directed by Stanley Tucci, it follows the sculptor and artist Giacometti (Rush) as he struggles to paint a portrait of his friend/muse James Lord (Hammer). And that is it – the whole plot. Frankly, the only thing that got me through this film was the long, lingering close-ups of Hammer’s face. One for die-hard fans only, I would suggest.

Verdict:  4/10

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Oh Lucy!

(starring Shinobu Terajima, Josh Hartnett, Kaho Minami & Shiloi Kutsuna)

This film follows Setsuko (a sublime performance by Terajima), an unusual woman who does not view her job or relationships in the same way as her contemporaries. Her niece Mika (Kutsuna) persuades her to take English lessons from John (Hartnett), but then he abruptly leaves for LA, taking Mika with him. Setsuko and her sister Ayako (Minami) set out to track them down and end up on an adventurous road trip of sorts. I absolutely adored this film from director Atsuko Hirayanagi and appreciated the creation of a fully-realised, complex and unique woman as the protagonist. Seek this out – you won’t regret it.

Verdict: 9/10

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Thoroughbreds

(starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Olivia Cooke & Anton Yelchin)

‘Thoroughbreds’ focuses on childhood friends Lily (Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Cooke), who have grown apart but are forced together when Amanda’s mother pays Lily to tutor her daughter. Set in the ultra-privileged world of private school Connecticut kids, this is an insight into a rarefied world. Lily and Amanda plot to kill Lily’s step-father with the help of local drug dealer Tim (one of Yelchin’s last roles). I appreciated the score and some of the camerawork in this film and the central performances are fantastic. Again, it’s a little difficult to fully engage with a film where everyone is terrible, but it’s stylishly done.

Verdict: 7.5/10

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Gemini

(starring Lola Kirke, Zoe Kravitz & John Cho)

‘Gemini’ is another film that seems to have had its release date majorly delayed because I first saw trailers for this over a year ago. An LA-set neo-noir (a genre that is very much up my street) focusing on the relationship between a celebrity, Heather (Kravitz) and her assistant, Jill (Lola Kirke), this is a mystery-thriller that is sure to intrigue. When Heather is murdered, Jill is immediately under suspicion and is pursued by Detective Edward Ahn (Cho), so she sets out to clear her name. The central performance by Kirke is incredible, but unfortunately there was not enough Cho for me. There is a delicious slice of black humour that runs through this film and it is a slightly ridiculous, but fun watch.

Verdict: 7.5/10

 Don’t forget to check out Fiona’s full reviews for Love, Simon and Journey’s End