“Searching” is a suspenseful thriller that includes representation and more

I was one of the fortunate few in Boulder this week who attended an advanced screening of the suspenseful thriller Searching and I wasn’t ready for what I watched.

This film tackles three things in addition to being a really good suspenseful thriller. Searching picks up where Black Panther left off in terms of representation; it also discusses mental health and generational rifts that continue to widen.

Representation

David Kim (John Cho), Pamela Nam Kim (Sara Sohn), and Margot Kim (Michelle La) are a stereotypical Asian family in the San Jose area. Something that gives these characters depth beyond the stereotype (a la Black Panther) are the hardships faced, especially for Margot, and the lack of communication between family members.

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The pressures of good grades, family expectations, and dealing with grief are all a lot for Margot to navigate.  In today’s day and age, the internet is a place to turn to when real life might not provide the expected outlets.

Margot is the hardworking, smart, academically successful Asian student often typecast; however, she is also imperfect for her relationship with her dad. She acts how you might expect a teenager to act, disconnected due to grief.

This is where we see a teenager simply needing someone to talk to, and the internet providing (as it always does in its own way).

Mental health and grief

Another issue covered throughout the film is dealing with grief/loss. Margot and David do not speak to each other about what’s happened to Pam and it significantly impacts their relationship.

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Working through what bothers one is important in order to heal from it and to move past it; that’s not to say whatever the event was should be forgotten. Instead, it’s important to recognize its impact and to learn how to deal with that while continuing to live and grow.

Not dealing with pain and grief can have adverse effects on one’s mental health. Stress can be a result of not adequately addressing an issue, and it has very detrimental effects on both the mind and body.

Margot addresses her grief by confiding in the internet and engaging in some questionable behavior. While technology helps Margot to cope in her own way, it also leads to the rift between Margot and her father.

Generational Rifts

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Technology is simultaneously a gift and a curse, depending on who you talk to.

It can provide all kinds of information to everything you want to learn about, while also isolating you and disconnecting you from the world outside of the computer screen.

For David, it’s mostly a tool for work and for communicating with Margot and his brother, Peter Kim (Joseph Lee). It doesn’t hold the social mobility that it does for Margot, who befriends online users in addition to completing her schoolwork and admissions applications.

This movie provides an important critique of how we use technology.

Computers, cell phones, and other modes of communication are but tools; it cannot inherently do good or evil on its own, but requires users and programmers to determine its function.

Margot doesn’t do intentional harm, but due to her lack of communication with her dad, she participates in questionable behavior.

I won’t say more on what the behavior is for the sake of spoilers, but she simply makes decisions that happen due to her vulnerability.

Why this section is titled generational rifts is because of how each generation uses technology. For David’s age group in the film, it is still more tool than entertainment; for Margot’s generation, it is both tool and toy, a method to learn and grow while also interact and communicate.

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This misunderstanding can also be rooted in a lack of communication, or even in miscommunication. In order for older generations to better understand what is happening with the younger ones, it requires asking questions. Being vulnerable.

In turn, this requires the younger generation to speak up when something is happening, and not just on one’s favorite social media site. It also requires patience, because there’s plenty that older generations know that the younger ones haven’t even experienced yet.

Perhaps if more emphasis was placed on offline, in-person communication by both parents and schools, that could in turn help to avoid the ending that happens in this movie.

It’s definitely a thrilling conclusion, and exactly what you would expect. Until you don’t.

Bonus!

This movie is displayed fully through screens. Computer screens, television screens, cell phone screens, surveillance screens. All of them.

It’s a newer method that definitely enhances what unfolds and director/writer Aneesh Chaganty has curated a great example of this mode of storytelling.

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