While Searching may sound familiar in premise, it is a bona fide original in its approach and execution. The story of a desperate father who turns to the digital world for help, relentlessly seeking clues about the whereabouts of his missing teenage daughter, the story tackles issues of modern day parenting with grace and uncommon depth.

From it’s carefully calibrated opening collage, shot inspiringly as equal parts a homage to Pixar’s Up and also Google’s widely watched ‘Parisian Love’ Super Bowl advert, Searching sets itself up as a film that’s smart and very well aware of how people, regardless of their age or gender, use technology today. These opening moments are important because they not only serve to set up the backstory of David, the father, and his current relationship with Margot, his daughter, but also become the litmus test of whether you as a viewer will accept and continue to be involved by watching nothing more than the onscreen actions of people using a computer or mobile phone to push forward an investigation. Thankfully, this works stupendously well and is a credit to both director Aneesh Chaganty and his screenwriting partner Sev Ohanian, who find not just humanity in every one of these scenes, but also a way to stitch them together into a coherent narrative.

Searching, at its core, is a proficient parent turned detective film. We watch the situation unfold entirely from the perspective of a very determined, very concerned David, who follows the breadcrumbs that Margot has unintentionally placed by her use of numerous devices (Macbooks, mobile phones) and multiple digital profiles (Facebook, Instagram etc.) allowing her father to piece together the missing pieces of her real persona. In these scenes, where cursors follow hyperlinks and text messages are written, deleted, written again and then silently sent, we feel as much a voyeur as the father, painfully discovering like any other parent that he never really knew his daughter well. These scenes are not only the films most engaging; they are also truthfully revelatory about the anxiety of modern technology that finds us all at some point feeling like a Luddite (“what’s a ‘Tumblr’”? an exasperated David, who ironically works in Silicon Valley, asks when told about one of his daughters many online diversions).

Yes, there are a few too many plot twists in the third act, however, this doesn’t take away anything from the sense of patriarchal pragmatism that gets us to this point, a credit to John Cho who, in a cinematic first, has to settle for playing second fiddle to computer screens. Though on the surface it’s about the use of modern technology to solve a crime, Searching is really about something more universal and traditional – the breakdown of communication within a family through the passing of time and age. This makes the film entirely relatable, plausible and also frighteningly real.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and