4/5 stars

All the talk has been about the Asian-American showcase Crazy Rich Asians , but this neat detective film about a Korean-American family deserves a similar amount of attention.

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The story of a missing teenager and the hunt to find her is suspenseful, believable and difficult to predict. Innovatively telling its story through IM, texts, YouTube, Facebook and the tech gadgetry we use to communicate with on a daily basis, Searching is Indian-American director Aneesh Chaganty’s debut, and highlights a consummate knowledge of filmmaking that makes him a name to watch out for.

The film begins with a montage which uses screenshots of social media to show the major events in David’s (John Cho) life. We see him and his wife Pamela (Sara Sohn) watching their daughter Margot grow from a five-year-old into a teenager, and we also see Pamela pass away from cancer. The film proper starts with David chatting happily to Margot (Michelle La) by IM. Then she disappears.

With the help of sympathetic detective Vick (Debra Messing) and David’s pot-smoking brother Peter (Joseph Lee), he tries to find his daughter by tracking down all her internet contacts. In doing so, he finds out that Margot may not be the hardworking, honest teenager he thinks she is – but then again, perhaps no one else is quite what they seem, either.

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Chaganty keeps the wheels of the story moving quickly and throws in some clever red herrings, carefully keeping the truth of the matter obscured to the very end. While everyday computers aren’t very cinematic, the director’s skilful montages and choice of subject matter make all the skipping between internet platforms gripping.

As a dad with little knowledge of the internet beyond Google and IM, David’s learning curve is steep. But his background in IT means he’s a quick learner, and that allows the story to be told in a techie manner. The way that online life segues with offline life is nicely shown, too.

An added bonus is the way that Searching addresses social concerns ranging from the treatment of women to identity theft and trolling.

Searching opens on October 17

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