Searching (2018)

Aneesh Chaganty created a movie called Seeds with Google Glass that hit a million views in under one day. Following its success, he was part of the Google Creative Lab, where he spent two years developing, writing and directing Google commercials. This film was originally intended as a short, but got the funding to be a full movie. That meany that Aneesh had to make the leap from a dream job to another dream job, but one that had no guarantees. Luckily, Searching is a great first effort. And it doesn’t hurt that it grossed $75 million dollars on a $1 million dollar budget.

The entire film is viewed via different screens, starting with David Kim (John Cho) looking back on the last two years. The pre-movie sequence effortlessly uses the tools we experience every day to tell the story of how his wife died and he became distant from his daughter, Margot.

Over the next few days, he’ll learn just how little he knows about her as she goes missing. He’ll have plenty of help from the public and Detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing). But even time he thinks he’s close to finding her, she slips further and further away. In fact, she may be gone for good.

Unlike traditional narratives that only show one side of the story, the film uses YouTube comments, hashtags and social posts to show every facet of its characters, even the tiniest of background roles. I loved how much information got packed into every frame.

As someone who works in marketing, I also adored how stock photography ended up playing such a major role in the mystery. I really don’t want to say any more than that — this is a ride that you should take without knowing all that much.

The crazy thing is that Aneesh filmed the entire movie playing every single role, with the real actors being fit in after the film had a rough edit. I’d love to see more of this, which is only hinted on the disk’s extras. In fact, if you’re someone that bemoans the loss of extras on recent films, this movie is packed with features that explain how the film was created and its many easter eggs.

Speaking of that, this movie is bursting at the seams with hidden messages. In a shout out to the first movie made in this style, Unfriended, one of that film’s characters named Laura Barns appears as a trending topic throughout the movie. There are multiple news articles about one of M. Night Shyamalan’s biggest fans getting to meet the director (this would be Aneesh, angling to meet his real-life hero). And throughout the film, there are multiple stories about an alien invasion, whether they run as trending topics or on crawls during news shows. I love the idea that life keeps going despite this world-changing event.

Perhaps most amazingly, when this movie was edited for foreign countries, every screen was recreated in its respective language, as well as every typing sequence, keystroke by keystroke.

I know that this movie is based on a gimmick, but I was shocked how much I ended up enjoying it. Check it out — perhaps you’ll feel the same way.

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