Movies began as artistic experimentations to showcase the wonderful power of imagination. Even in the early days, filmmakers pushed themselves to think outside of the box in order to bring to life fantastical adventures of cowboys, astronauts, and magicians, and through the many years, people still find ways to utilize video in unique ways, creating newer sub-genres, such as found footage movies. With the advent of digital video readily available on almost any device, pretty much every electronic we use is a camera, and the movie Searching uses this concept to its advantage.
Searching is easily one of the most unique movies I have ever seen. For the majority of the time, not a single frame was shot with a traditional camera, until we see footage from security cameras. It was mostly done through computer cameras, phone cameras, and screen recordings. It’s such a simple idea to record a movie on a computer, but the execution was exceptionally well thought out. Throughout the story, we see a stressed, widowed father trying desperately to find his missing daughter, and we follow his mouse clicks and web searches as the mystery unfolds. It’s seriously unique and is an impressive way to convey characters’ thoughts, feelings, and motivations. I desperately want to give examples of how the movie used its methods to produce emotional resonance, but the least I say about its cleverness the better. If you want something different to watch, this may be a pleasant surprise for you, as it was for me.
There’s not much to say about the artistry of this film, since it’s so focused on computer apps and screen time, but I will say the editing was stellar. Going from website navigations to tracing GPS locations was pretty seamless and kept the story riveting. There were a few uses of regular cameras, such as footage from a news channel, which helped transition the story along into new territories, and I also think there was a clever use of a livestream that was used in a very effective way. One camera use that I think may have been done better was from a scene involving security cameras. It wasn’t very believable that the cameras were hidden (unless they were disguised as other items, but we weren’t shown that), which made the movie feel cinematic at those times. It’s very odd for me to critique a movie for getting good shots, but in the context here, the shots probably could have benefitted from being behind an object with a slightly obscured view. Aside from that, the clever uses involving the computer screen and the applications at play made this an engaging and insightful thriller that kept me excited to see how the mystery would play out.
Lastly, I want to complement the actors for having to perform over video chats and vlogs. These types of videos are sort of awkward in real life, since they’re less interactive than an in-person meeting. Sometimes those on the other end of the camera are nervously fidgeting or struggling to say what their thinking without making a mistake, which is much different than the perfect speeches and emotional dialogues we see in movies all of the time. Here, the actors did a great job of delivering their lines in realistic ways that made it feel like such a conversation actually could happen in these conditions. Even though everyone did great, I think Michelle La perfectly captured the awkwardness of a teenager on the internet. She nailed the reassuring yet timid nature of a teen telling their parent about their late-night activities, as well as the cringy straightforwardness when a father walks in on a vlog being made. In addition to all of that, her character–without spoiling anything–has something to deal with internally, and that struggle can be felt layered within her scenes. Though she doesn’t have many scenes, she perfectly captures the realism of video calls and the insecurities that come with digital communication.
Searching is a fascinating filmmaking endeavor, and seeing how the artists behind this movie cleverly use their resources was fascinating. The style is bold, and the story is exciting. This may just be the movie to watch if you're "searching" for something special.
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