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MOVIE REVIEW

Searching

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for thematic content, some drug and sexual references, and for language.

Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
• Adults
Genre:
Psychological Thriller Mystery
Length:
1 hr. 42 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
January 21, 2018 (festival)
August 3, 2018 (limited)
August 31, 2018 (wide—1,207 theaters)
September 7, 2018 (2,009 theaters)
Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment

Missing child

Trying to find missing people

On-line activities of teens

Where did CANCER come from? Answer

How did bad things come about? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment Copyright, Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment
Featuring: John ChoDavid Kim
Michelle La … Margot—daughter of David and Pamela Kim
Debra MessingDetective Rosemary Vick
Steven Michael Eich … Robert—Detective Vick’s son
Joseph Lee … Peter Kim—David’s brother
Sara Sohn … Pamela Nam Kim—David’s wife and Margot’s mother
Roy Abramsohn … Male Anchor
Brad Abrell … News Reporter (voice)
Gabriel D. Angell … Officer Brandon Jackson
Thomas Barbusca … Cody
Gage Biltoft … John Watson
Kyle Austin Brown … K-9 unit
See all »
Director: Aneesh Chaganty
Producer: Bazelevs Entertainment
Bazelevs Production [Russia]
See all »
Distributor: Screen Gems
Screen Gems, a division of Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment

“What is she hiding?”

David is just your average single father trying to make it work with his daughter, Margot. It really hasn’t been easy for him or for his daughter since the death of his wife, Pamela. I guess you could say he’s tried to keep himself busy with work and with his brother, Peter, to deal with having lost his wife and the effect it has had on him and Margot.

When it comes to Margot, David tries his best to salvage whatever remains of his relationship with her since her mother’s passing. Sure, they have their television nights together, but as time as passed Margot has become more and more distant. How well does David really know his daughter?

When Margot doesn’t return home from a study group (library?) one night, an alarm goes off in David’s head. Something’s not right. He notices Margot left her textbooks and laptop on the kitchen counter. Why would she do that if she was going to a study group?

David calls her cellphone. No response. He calls again. No response. After several attempts and multiple texts, he really worries. He contacts her classmates, “friends,” anyone he THOUGHT would know her and her whereabouts. Nothing. Most of those “friends” claim Margot is a loner at school, avoiding most social settings and that they would interact with her simply out of sympathy. Well, that was no help.

Eventually, David decides he needs to get the police involved. Detective Rosemary Vick, who volunteers for the case, tells him she has determined Margot has run off and, as evidence begins to show, was living a double life. Again, the question remains… how well did David THINK he knew his daughter?

When you see previews for “Searching,” the first thing that probably comes to your mind is, “Oh no, not another version of ‘Unfriended’! Haven’t we been there, done that?” Format-wise, yes, there are some similarities between the camera styles of “Searching” and “Unfriended.” However, comparing “Searching” and “Unfriended” is unwise, as it would be like comparing smartphones at a store. Sure, some of them share some elements, but when it comes right down to it they are their own phones. “Searching” and “Unfriended” are both thrillers, but one leans more toward horror (“Unfriended”) and one leans more toward suspense and panic (“Searching”). When it comes right down to it, though, what you have to look at, with both films, are these essential elements (which stand for, pretty much, all films): plot, pacing, character development and performance. So here’s the breakdown:

  1. The Plot: Simple, yet effective. It doesn’t overcomplicate, nor does it insult the viewer’s intelligence. Rather, the plot allows, as others have mentioned, the viewer the chance to test theories, examine individuals, and ensure that no detail goes unturned. The plot’s twists are genuine, forthcoming, and truly unexpected, making even the most seasoned thriller fan question his movie-viewing skills.

    The Pacing: Even. I didn’t find myself checking the time or thinking to myself, “When will this scene just end?” In some instances, I could have argued for some scenes to be a lengthened a little bit.

  2. Character Development: Strong in every aspect. The character development is just strong enough in both David Kim and Margot to carry the film (again, not over-complicated to the point where we have to remember every detail of their lives, nor under-detailed where we question what drove them to certain decisions or conversations). I commend the writers for providing the balance that is necessary to sustain such a thriller.

  3. The Performances: Jaw dropping and emotional. While John Cho may not be the most recognized actor in Hollywood, he very well should be. He provides such a level of emotion to his character—from concerned, to anxious, to self-anger, to self-guilt and makes us actually ponder questions such as, “How much has social media divided as it has brought together?” and “Has human, face-to-face interaction become such a lost art that we don’t even connect with our loved ones anymore?” Debra Messing also puts in a somewhat reserved, yet balanced performance.

Content for Concern

Violence: There is a scene where David is witness-threatening a man and begins to choke him. There is also another another scene in which David threatens a young boy and breaks his jaw (we hear about it). David is also seen punching a hole in the wall a few times. A woman is seen bleeding. Someone mentions and eventually does commit suicide.

Language/Profanity: The f-word is spoken once and typed twice. God’s name is used in vain 5 times. Other profanities include h*ll and d*mn.

Sexual Content/Nudity: Moderately Heavy. A text message implies that someone had sexual relations with a family member. There’s a conversation about how babies are born. Someone mentions “boobies.” An eggplant is displayed during a converation (implying male genitalia). Someone mentions a woman “loves the d.” Some women wear revealing outfits.

Morals/Issues

One of the underlying themes that surrounds “Searching,” is the concept of careful parenting and taking time to really know one’s son or daughter. In this day and age, it is easy to become so preoccupied and our attention so divided between the world, our work, our commitments, etc., that we may easily end up losing track of those who matter to us. This includes the enormous amounts of time we spend on social media as well (yes, this is the world!). Here is the Bible’s take on the world:

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” —Mark 8:38

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” —1 John 2:17

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” —1 John 5:4

The Scriptures are very clear about the role of a father (as well as a mother) and the value God places on family.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” —Ephesians 6:4

“Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” —Psalm 127: 3-5

If I had to sum up my review in four words it would be this: “first appearances are deceiving.” I say this because at first glance you would think, “Eh, ‘Searching’ is just a copycat of other films that have come before it.” Do not be deceived though. It is a strong, emotional and powerfully told story, delivered in a mile-a-minute, hold-your-breath-during-the-final-act sort of fashion, with strong cinematic elements throughout. While there is some moderate use of profanity, violence and sexual dialog/content to contend with, I am glad I watched this movie. I hope to see more films from this director in the future.

  • Vulgar/Crude language: Heavy— • f-words (3) • s-words (4) • a** • b**bies
  • Profane language: Moderate— • G*d (5) • h*ll (1) • d*mn (1)
  • Violence: Mild
  • Sex: Mild
  • Nudity: None
  • Occult: None

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I loved this movie. My husband not so much; but only because he’s not much for the suspense type of movie like I am. The acting was really good, and the plot builds and keeps us wondering where it’s going throughout.

Because of the heavy focus on computer technology, I did notice a much younger viewer audience. An older viewer may not be able to identify as much with the heavy emphasis on emailing, texting, Skyping and social media. It depends on how much in tune you are with it. It delivered for me and kept my interest to the very end.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Jan, age over 50 (USA)

PLEASE share your observations and insights to be posted here.

Secular Movie Critics
…“Search” never commits the cardinal sin of being boring…
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage
…Cutting to the emotional core of what social media says about us, the result is as much a time capsule of our relationship to (and reliance upon) modern technology as it is a cutting-edge digital thriller. …
Peter Debruge, Variety
…shockingly effective, not just in creating a sense of constant, palpable tension, but also in the way it pulls off authentic, effective emotional beats… Messing’s performance seems out of sync with the rest of the actors at times, as if she’s playing scenes from a much more melodramatic TV show…
Bryan Bishop, The Verge
…gradually ratchets up the tension as all good thrillers must, one that’s well constructed and acted as well as novel in its storytelling techniques…
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
…massively clever… The movie’s arresting visual conceit has enough flexibility to sustain interest, even if the story’s twists and turns sometimes feel excessively fiendish… Cho’s empathetic portrayal is so important: he’s the beating heart of a film that can be coldblooded in its construction.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
…As nimble as Aneesh Chaganty is in presenting his main character’s multi-faceted interaction with technology in the first hour, the film suddenly morphs into a generic and manipulative missing-person thriller… skewing toward repeated narrative rug-pulls that are as absurd as they are predictable…
Derek Smith, Slant