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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
Searching follows a panicked father’s online moves as he tries to track down his missing teenage daughter. David Kim is a widower raising his 16-year-old daughter, Margot, in suburban San Jose, California. David and Margot live busy lives between work and school, and they mostly communicate through text messages and FaceTime calls. But one night, the usually conscientious Margot fails to come home after a study group session, something David doesn’t realise until well into the next day. The time stamp of the last phone call Margot made to him is in the middle of the night.
David contacts police and a full-blown effort begins to find Margot. The determined Detective Rosemary Vick arrives to investigating Margot’s disappearance and she advises David to take part in the search. He does so by rummaging through the contacts on his daughter’s laptop, questioning people she knows, and uncovering aspects of her life that she had kept hidden from him and that may have played a role in her disappearance. The more they uncover together, the more David realises he didn’t really know his only child. It’s the sad paradox of technology, a tool that’s meant to bring people closer together, that it also can foster such a divide. But what’s dismayingly fascinating about “Searching” is that, for all its reflection of secrets and traits both contained and dispersed in a person’s digital identity, it offers almost nothing of its characters’ identities. It renders them virtually faceless and lacking in inclinations, interests, and idiosyncrasies. When Margot’s secrets emerge, they’re gears of the plot, not aspects of her character. “Searching” explores this in smart, slickly paced ways. Until the end, we’re deeply invested in these well-drawn characters, and whether they’ll find their happy ending both online and IRL.