Tuesday, February 19, 2019

MotM/Video Essay SuperPost: Searching

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering movies – bad, good or otherwise –  these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So once a month, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

I’m grateful for the time I spent covering bad movies for a number of reasons, but one of them is that it gave me an appreciation for films that fall outside of the mainstream, nation-wide consciousness. Don’t get me wrong: I look forward to the next Marvel extravaganza as much as anyone else. But much like finding a hidden gem of a film buried in bad movie muck, there’s a great joy in discovering that a small, quietly released movie is actually all sorts of fantastic.

Take this month’s installment: Searching.

On the surface, Searching is another one of those gimmicky films where the entire story takes place on a computer screen. There are a number of these films floating around out there, and while I’ve heard varying things about them, they never interested me – they sounded all gimmick and no substance. I’m not sure what made me give Searching a whirl, but I’m glad I did because this one’s the real deal.

There are a number of things that make Searching work. One aspect is very simple: Plot-wise, this is a very simple story. In a nutshell, widower John Cho’s teenage daughter goes missing, and he’s searching for her. Unlike all the other “the entire movie is on the computer” gimmicks I’ve heard about, there are no Internet ghosts or possessed servers, no jump scares, no nonsense.

Another big aspect, and this can’t be overstated, is John Cho’s performance. He carries the film as the grieving, guilt-riddled and increasingly desperate dad, and he is amazing. He does so much just with the look on his face, seemingly aged 20 years overnight. Has it really been that long since Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle? (checks IMDB)… Yeah, pretty much.

Finally – and this is why I’m making this a MotM/Video Essay Super Post – is the fact that this isn’t just a thriller with a gimmick layered over it. The fact that this story is told over computers is very intentional, as it feeds directly into the film’s core themes of connectivity (and the lack thereof) in a social media age. 

For more on that, I’d like to refer you to the latest from Lessons from the Screenplay. Here, Michael not only digs into the thematic connection between the story and the format, but even talks about how the actual screenplay portrayed chat conversations, web searches and more in a way that made it very clear to the reader.

[The video has spoiler tags, but there’s nothing here that would blow the whole movie for you.]

It’s not often I find a film I’d recommend without qualifications, but here we are. Congratulations, Searching: You are the Movie of the Month.

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