Searching movie (2018): review and analysis

John Cho in Searching movie
A still from Searching

Searching (movie) is a 2018 investigative thriller by director Aneesh Chaganty – a surprisingly solid debut. This American mystery thriller is written by Chaganty along with Sev Ohanian. The cinematography is by Juan Sebastian Baron and the music is by Torin Borrowdale, with a running time of 1 hour and 42 minutes. It is the first mainstream Hollywood thriller headed by an actor of Asian-American origin. Searching is largely locked in on computer screens and smartphones. As the title suggests, it is about a father, who is searching for his teenage daughter along with a police detective, after she has gone missing. He files a police complaint about his daughter. However, a series of hidden facts unfold when he starts looking through his daughter’s laptop. Later on, he discovers an even more unexpected truth regarding his daughter’s disappearance.

What makes Searching more interesting compared to other mystery thrillers is its presentation on computer screens. This allows it to escape the overt clichés of a familiar genre. The cast includes John Cho as David Kim, Debra Messing as Detective Sergeant Rosemary Vick, Michelle La as Margot Kim, Sara Sohn as Pamela Nam Kim, Joseph Lee as Peter Kim, Steven Michael Eich as Robert Vick, and Ric Sarabia as Randy Cartoff. This movie has been a financial and critical success and garnered strong applause for its direction, acting, unique screenplay, extraordinary visual presentation, and unpredictability of the plot. A sequel is already in the making.

Analysis of Searching (movie)

John Cho plays David Kim, a widower who is trying his best to find a trace of his daughter after she goes missing from a friend’s house, following a group study session. He looks through all the clues, tries to join the dots, and is able to trace her last location. To solve the case, a detective sergeant is assigned. However there are no fruitful results, so David takes it upon himself to solve the mystery. The story almost entirely unwinds through tabs of YouTube, Gmail, Skype, Tumblr, Facebook, and a live-streaming website. This gives the viewers a feeling like they are also ‘logging in,’ switching between tabs, clicking, or maybe texting together with the actor in the real world. With the introduction of detective Rosemary Vick, things may start to feel hopeful. However, this is exactly when the plot shifts.

Amidst all this, David uncovers parts of Margot’s life of which he was unaware. Searching deals with issues of a strained father-daughter relationship, the loneliness of a child, and parents covering up for their child’s mistakes. Though the movie ends on a positive note, it sends the message that parents shouldn’t ignore the emotional needs of their children. They should also be stern with their kids when necessary instead of indulging harmful behavior. Searching has the necessary level of backstory for Margot which allows the audience to connect to her better. Moreover, this is not the only film to try out the format of computer screens. Movies like Open Windows and Unfriended took the same route but couldn’t reach a desired level of success.

Michelle La as Margot in Searching movie
Margot (Michelle La) in Searching


The incredibly talented and versatile John Cho takes the audience on a personal, heart-clenching journey. As David Kim creates a spreadsheet to trace the contacts, marks locations on maps, as he searches through Margot’s online profiles, the anxiety increases. The viewer starts experiencing the tension and panic alongside him, but it also feels like spying on David. This makes the audience feel that the activities are actually happening on their phone or laptop screens. It also accomplishes the task of delivering a large number of details within a few minutes.

As the film progresses, the twists and turns and tension escalate. The story and well-etched characters keep the viewers hooked till the end. The film requires a fair bit of paying attention to details. The clues are like a jigsaw puzzle which David needs to solve as fast as he can. One becomes immersed in the action due to the film’s presentational tactics. Furthermore, Searching reflects on an important truth about today’s world. Despite online social networking platforms, people are more lonely and disconnected than ever before. It shows how people are dealing with life and personal loss during the period of online isolation. Hence, Searching is definitely a one of its kind movie that will keep you invested till the end.

Still (Searching)
Still from Searching

Leave a Reply