A light criticism of “desktop films”

searching.jpgSearching is the directorial debut by Aneesh Chaganty and tells its story almost entirely through a computer screen. While there’s nothing new there it’s certainly an interesting choice, especially for someones very first feature-length film. However, that begs the question. With this inherent stipulation cinematically, does the film still manage to be entertaining? Surprisingly, yes.

I went into this film without knowing a single thing about it. In passing, I may have seen a few promotional videos here and there but none of it seems to stick in my mind. So when the first thing I saw was a computer screen I was more than just skeptical of the film’s fidelity. The main issue with choosing to make a film that takes place entirely on a computer screen is the inherent lack of visual stimulation. When the majority of the screen is simply white space the audience is practically inclined to get bored. However, I think Chaganty uses this to his advantage. There’s always a logical reason for why the audience is able to see what’s happening, whether it’s on security cameras or newscasts. Chaganty also isn’t afraid to make computers do things they normally can’t. A risk I think was well worth the slight loss of immersion. Often times, the point of view will begin to zoom in on a specific detail or element on the screen, which makes for some incredibly tense moments.

All in all, I was satisfied. While the film’s storytelling is formulaic at times, the overall mystery albeit thrilling is a bit predictable in some moments, and it sometimes gets confused about what its overall purpose is; the one thing the film consistently manages to be is entertaining. At this point, I’m just searching for a movie that takes place entirely on a PlayStation party chat.

Additional Reading:

How Searching became more than just an “internet movie”

A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film

Another review by a friend of mine

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