What’s immediately compelling about Aneesh Chaganty’s thriller is its cleverly curated mise en scene, which takes place on a computer desktop. The story unfolds in a series of screenshots depicting photo files, browser searches, chat messages, Tumblr posts, Facebook timelines, and, most provocatively, Skype conversations. By obviating the need for placing the viewer’s POV directly into the action, Chaganty has more control over the mystery elements of the story, which is just as well because that story is pretty trite.
The computer usually belongs to college student Margot (Michelle La), whose widowed dad, David (John Cho), tends to be preoccupied with work and doesn’t really have much of a clue as to what Margot is really about. One day she doesn’t come home from a meeting with her study group and David is unable to get in touch with her by cell phone. When hours stretch into days and the police detective (Debora Messing) assigned to the case is unable to move the investigation along quickly enough, David unlocks his daughter’s computer and starts his own investigation. What he finds out is surprising and disturbing, since it would seem he doesn’t know as much about Margot as he thought he did. Chaganty’s point—that the technology which makes our lives easier also works to hide us from one another—isn’t particularly original, but he works the conceit with flair. Since the director jumps from one device to another, the movie occasionally loses focus along with a good measure of tension. Though the mystery is involving as long as it remains a mystery, there aren’t a lot of thrills along the way. Essentially, with each piece of the puzzle that David finds our anxiety increases, but without any feeling of physical presence, Searching remains a mouse click away from relevance. It’s innovation in the service of the banal.
Now playing in Tokyo at Toho Cinemas Nihonbashi (050-6868-5060), Toho Cinemas Hibiya (050-6868-5068), Toho Cinemas Shinjuku (050-6868-5063), Shibuya Cine Quinto (03-3477-5905), Toho Cinemas Roppongi Hills (050-6868-5024).
Searching home page in Japanese.