Searching

[3.5 stars]

When I’m wrong, I’m wrong. I honestly expected a really poor movie tied together with clever tricks. Instead, I got a rather good suspense/mystery that really captured a lot of how life has changed over the last 10 years or so for families. It is far from perfect and definitely gets some things very wrong, but it clips along nicely and has compelling characters.

John Cho (Gemini) gives us a father we can relate to and sympathize with, even as you want to occasionally slap him. But his hyperfocus and obstinance are necessary elements to drive the tale. Debra Messing (Like Sunday, Like Rain) surprised me as a very down-to-earth detective. She is very much in control, but not unemotional. It is a very different role for her, but one which she delivers on nicely.

First time feature director and co-writer Aneesh Chaganty made quite a splash with this low-budget thriller. There was lots of buzz about it as it over-performed in release, but I still felt like it would do fine on a small screen and skipped it in theater. To a degree, the result does feel familiar. 11 Cameras comes to mind, or even the more recent Disconnect. And it is timed unexpectedly well given the rise of social media as a primary source for news. However Chaganty also manages to create a driving mystery, with just enough technical wizardry to make it feel real but possible. And he gives us characters and high stakes without resorting to soap-opera like relationships.

Searching is a surprising film, if only because you just don’t expect it to be so engaging. The 100 minute ride is tight from beginning to end. I’m definitely curious to see what Chaganty delivers next. Meantime, for a good distraction, pop this one in or, more appropriately, stream it and enjoy.

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