I just wish the ending was better.
Searching is a film with two main organisational principles; there's the thriller plot, which ostensibly keeps everything moving, and to which everything else should, in theory, be in service. Then there's the aesthetic design, with the entire film taking place online, the images presented taking the form of what is seen on computer screens, iPhones, security cameras etc. One of these principles is exceptionally well handled, the other isn't, and it shouldn't take a genius to guess which is which. Although the plot has a reasonably strong forward momentum, with a well-judged pace, it comes across as initially insipid, and ultimately rather ridiculous. If this was a standardly shot film, without the unique visual design, no one would be giving it a second glance; the thriller plot is cliched, derivative, and trite, and despite the foolishness into which it descends, it's also fairly predictable. In this sense, the film reminds me of something like Lady in the Lake or Victoria. Both feature dull and hackneyed plots that serve only as something onto which to hang the structure, rather than the other way around; Lady in the Lake is shot entirely in the first-person, whilst Victoria is shot in a single continuous take, and neither is worth looking at for their plot, characters, or dialogue.
The aesthetic aspect of Searching is much more successful, with almost the entire film taking place on a computer screen, with Facetime conversations, iPhone messages, security camera footage, and TV material rounding out the design. The first thing to know is that the aesthetic is extremely well crafted; logistically, this can't have been an easy film to plan or shoot, and the fact that the various components that go into making up the final image all work so well together suggests a great degree of care. In tandem with this, whilst the overarching plot is poor, the writing is excellent in terms of how it continually finds natural ways to confine the action to a screen, never once did it feel like a gimmick, like it was being forced to stay within the computer screen simply to satisfy an abstract aesthetic rubric. It all worked reasonably organically, and after a few minutes of acclimating yourself, you barely even register it anymore.
Within this, the filmmakers are even able to throw up a few surprises. For example, the structure grants us more access to the main character's interiority than would be possible in a regular film. How so? Simple - by employing something we've all done, many times. On several occasions, he is shown typing something during a conversation, only to delete it, and send something completely different, whether because the first message was angry, or emotionally revealing, or accusatory etc. Anyone who has spent any amount of time talking online or via text will be familiar with this, and the use of it in the film allows us a glance into his psyche, showing us where his mind is in an unfiltered sense, before self-censorship kicks in. It only happens a few times, but it really does impart a degree of psychological verisimilitude that I wasn't expecting.
Additionally, the film uses the visual design to offer some social commentary. For example, the addiction to technology and social media so prevalent in today's culture is right there in the set-up - the entire family are obsessed with speaking to one another via phones and computers, and recording pretty much everything, often at the expense of having more natural face-to-face conversations. Another subject is the toxicity of the internet, the prevalence of online troll culture. This is communicated primarily through one scene - after watching a news report about the missing girl on YouTube, her father begins reading the comments, which almost immediately start making jokes about him having killed her, and being "father of the year" (presented as a meme, obviously, because typing is such a drag). A very pertinent topic in the wake of Trump's election is the dissemination of fake news, and this is conveyed through a half-funny, half-unpleasant scene - shortly after realising his daughter was missing, David spoke to someone at her school, who confesses that she barely knew her. Later on, however, when the media is swarming all over the case, she is seen on the news, tearfully lamenting how much she misses her "best friend." The impossibility ever being invisible online is another topic. Yes, the film is about a person who had an entire online existence that no one knew about, but that was only because no one had looked. Once someone did, and once a few threads were pulled, everything is exposed, as the impossibility of erasing ones digital footprint becomes manifest in the story. Anyone who has spent any amount of time online will be familiar with many of these, and the fact that they all ring so true, without the film becoming preachy, is a testament to the quality of the filmmaking.
All in all a nice surprise I highly recommend.
Most of the scenes are filmed into a Mac, texting, facetiming etc...
After 30 minutes I was so bored and annoyed that I fast forwarded to 60 minutes to see if there was a change, if there was actually
any acting going on......It was not...
What a great movie!!