David does not recognise the daughter he knows in her online persona with her intimacies and random people she chats with. This and other paradoxes ring true to our experiences of how social media exaggerates and distorts our perceptions. As the search progresses, sensational lists appear on gossip websites, including ‘21 reasons why David could have killed his daughter’, and an unflattering photo of David soon makes the rounds, labeled ‘Father of the Year’ – indicating the trolling phenomenon. Teens who were never particularly close to Margot post teary videos claiming to be her best friend, to thunderous (virtual) applause.
Directed by one-time Google filmmaker Aneesh Chaganty, the movie gets all its technology tones right, from the ubiquitous sounds of computers opening and ring tones of various communication apps, to David not knowing the new age social media like tumblr (he googles ‘tumbler’). Technology-based movies are not new in Hollywood, nor is the sci-fi genre. But Searching is part of a new generation of movies where the technology showcased is real, but its content is virtual.
Sci-fi is not about aliens or futuristic worlds any more. In 2013, Her featured Scarlett Johansson’s voice as an alluring artificial intelligence assistant that the protagonist falls in love with. In 2016, we saw Unfriended, where a ghost haunts online chats. Since 2011, Black Mirror has been projecting how the technologies we know could grow to control our lives, in an eerily familiar manner. Searching is part of this genre, where sci-fi is not about unrealistic fantasies but about how the technology we live with is changing the way we live and process information. And it is all the more scary because it is true.
Searching is not just for youngsters and techno buffs. And if it does not make it to Nepali screens, readers of this review can always search and find it online!