‘Searching’ Spins a Thrilling Social Media Mystery


Searching, the social media-themed thriller of the year, is the jarring tale of a parent’s worst nightmare: the vanishing of their child. A fusion of Unfriended and Hardcore, Searching is a film about a desperate and confused father, David, searching for his missing daughter, Margot, a piano prodigy, dedicated student, and nature-lover.  The film took only 12 days to shoot, but two years to produce, during which director Aneesh Chaganty created such a realistic worst-case scenario film that it could arguably be labeled as a horror. John Cho, who plays David Kim (the father) in Searching may be described as a grief-stricken, yet dedicated and humble father who will stop at nothing to find the most important person in his life. Daughter Margot’s role is played by four actresses but mostly Michelle La, portrayed entirely through videos and pictures on her father’s laptop screen. Detective Rosemary Vick, the deputy who claimed to be assigned Margot’s case, is played by Debra Messing.

Completely convincing acting combined with an emotionally jam-packed plot imply an almost personal involvement in David’s traumatic search. Margot does not have much dialogue with other characters, but the videos that the audience must profile her from send messages of pain and grief in her facial expressions alone. Detective Vick is an experienced and accredited detective who only seems to have the family’s best interests in mind. However, I would warn that there are so many plot twists and unexpected details in this movie that it is unsafe to trust any character until the end credits. Margot’s mother and David’s wife is named Pam Kim and is played by Sarah Sohn but has limited on-screen appearances.

The family is presented in the opening scene through the screen of a laptop, joyously creating a new computer profile for their young daughter. This is when viewers are introduced to a plethora of home videos of David, Margot, and Pam’s heartwarming video memories, including baking, piano lessons, and Father’s Day. These videos make multiple appearances throughout the movie and are used to express when David is in pain or despair. The introduction continues with a crippling e-mail notification about Pam’s health, which reveals that she is suffering from lymphoma. After a hopeful taste of remission, a relapse occurs and the wife and mother passes away, leaving David and Margot to quickly lose emotional touch with each other.

The rest of the movie surrounds Margot’s puzzling disappearance after a night at a study group. Through the search for Margot, the audience meets Peter (David’s brother) and Detective Rosemary Vick, the lead deputy on the case. When David first reports Margot as missing, he makes it his mission to find out as much as he can about Margot, her friends, and what happened that night. Throughout his troubling search, David finds nothing but false leads, wrong answers, and a few uninvited quarrels. A surprise ending can only be expected from this film as it is designed to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. Truly unexpected details and turns left me in awe at how delightfully the movie concludes.

It is important to note that the entire theme of the film is the computers/social media, as it is the best shot David has at finding his daughter. He thoroughly scans his daughter’s numerous social media outlets including Tumblr, Instagram, and even a live streaming site called YouCast. Once Margot’s case is broadcasted on the news, social media explodes with support through “#FindMargot,” and drama through “#DadDidIt” and “#ParentFail.” These hurtful hashtags add a necessary dash of reality, reminding the audience that this disaster can fall upon any family at any time. These kind of traumatic events usually leave families scarred and in mourning, if not completely broken. Additionally, not knowing what happened to the victim can leave families silent about the issue can keep them from overcoming the loss. Although the movie does not include the aftermath of the case, it is clear through David’s desperation how emotionally scarred he is. He makes split-second decisions, lets his anger get the best of him, and says hurtful things that he admits he did not mean. These are just some of the effects of a loss so painful.

Searching is a tantalizingly emotional journey full of loss, pain, and secrets. While the outcome of the story is undeniably the most satisfying aspect, credit must be given to the countless turns in the story which create the bubble of uncertainty that is to be popped by the ultimate truth.