Sundance Film Festival reviews: John Cho amazing in tense, emotional “Search”


By Jenniffer Wardell
Not rated
Screenplay by Aneesh Chaganty and Sev Ohanian
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Starring John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph La, Michelle La and more
Grade: Five stars (out of four. Seriously, it’s that good)

There’s so much that can happen on a computer screen.

“Search,” which has already won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize, is a nail-bitingly intense, powerfully emotional thriller that’s hands-down the best fictional film at Sundance this year. Not only does it make masterful use of the fact that it unfolds entirely on computer screens (putting it on the very to of the scale that has “Unfriended” at the very bottom), it’s also a tense, incredibly affecting story. This would be a fantastic film no matter how it was told, but the constraints put on it by the concept turn it into something special.

After opening with a sweet, affecting montage that chronicles a family’s life for several years through a computer screen, we land in the present moment and a slightly awkward, strained FaceTime call between a father and daughter. The girl is going to be at study group all night, but then a series of increasingly worried texts and calls slowly reveals that the daughter never made it home from that study group. The police are called in, a detective played by Debra Messing, and we watch the case unfold onscreen.

Though telling you too much about the story would spoil it, I will say that John Cho is utterly fantastic as the father. As we watch him investigate his daughter’s life and realize he really didn’t know her at all, he’s by turns heartbreaking and ever-so-slightly terrifying. Obsession, grief and love all come together into something powerful.

Sony has already picked up the rights to “Search,” so you’ll definitely get the chance to see this in theaters. I urge you to grab that chance when you can – it’s an experience you won’t forget.

(Photo by Juan Sebastian Baron | Courtesy of Sundance Institute)

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