Filled with an abundance of 21st-century tech specificity and inside humor—of course the parents would own a Windows PC while their teenage daughter remains loyally glued to her expensive Mac— Aneesh Chaganty's Searching, the story of a loving father who's determined to find his missing daughter, is a thriller improved upon by its limitations.
Told from the perspective of the digital screens we find ourselves engulfed in on a daily basis (everything from computer and cell phone screens to traffic cam and interrogation room footage gets a run for its money here), the film is a product of itself. While a subgenre of "computer screen POV thrillers" may be in the works—and producer Timur Bekmambetov, of this film, Unfriended, and his riveting directorial effort Profile, is determined to further this unexpected Silicon Valley-influenced Dogme movement—Searching is less interested in being faithful to one particular screen than in being platform agnostic.
It's also, for both the helpful and horrific aspects of 21st-century tech, about complicit surveillance and how we voluntarily offer up our most private moments to be easily stumbled upon and yes, searchable. Every Instagram photo, every social media geotag, every saved document on your computer can be used to compose a description of who you are, and that certainly comes in handy for your loved ones when you go missing.
The film places us in the role of the father and, at certain key points, allows us to be a few steps ahead of him; when, late in the film, dad comes across an important photograph of a young woman his daughter has been speaking with, the viewer is almost shouting at the screen for him to go back to a certain website to connect the dots. The film is both participatory and tech-based, whodunit Dinner Theater.
Our own Emily Buder spoke with Chaganty, a former Google employee who was hired out of USC film school to demonstrate how Google Glass could be a viable option for filmmakers, out of the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Chaganty's Google Glass-shot Seeds, as well as Nug, a film that plays in reverse, and Starving!, a film made with fellow students at USC competing for the school's USC Alphie Competition, can be viewed below. Searching is currently in theaters.
Have you seen Searching yet? What did you think of Chaganty's unique storytelling approach? Let us know in the comments below.