Searching for the real you online
(M) John Cho, Debra Messing, Joseph Lee, Michella La
To see a film like Searching, the expectation may to view the evils people suffer online, but writer/director Aneesh Chaganty has managed to deliver a unique and balanced approach to this timely discussion. David Kim (John Cho) has been trying to keep his life together for the sake of his 16-year-old daughter, Margot (Michelle La) since the death of his wife and her mother. The Kims were a close-knit family, but as they travelled through Pam Kim’s (Sara Sohn) cancer journey together, the father and daughter seem to drift apart. One night Margot does not come home after her high school study group.
Once David works through all of his known contacts and Margot’s friends, he contacts the San Jose Police Department for assistance and with Detective Vick (Debra Messing), he begins to delve into the online world of his troubled teen. As he begins to reintroduce himself and learn more about his missing child through Google and social media, he discovers that there is more to this story than the typical missing person’s report.Few films cause a degree of unexpected terror for parents than a story of apparent abduction. The premise seems pretty straightforward and the subject matter may keep people away, but three elements may make this a worthwhile endeavour for parents.
The first component is the historical aspect of this film which is similar to the groundbreaking impact of Crazy Rich Asians, this is the first Hollywood thriller with an Asian actor in the lead role. John Cho (Star Trek: Beyond) takes full advantage of this opportunity by delivering an intense and convincing portrayal of a father who will do all he can to find his daughter. This seasoned actor proves he is worthy of carrying a big budget production and conveying the extremes of emotion that would be involved with this type of situation.
The second and more intriguing aspect is the creative film production: the direction and utilisation of exclusive footage from the vantage point of the computer screen. This style has been used before, but director Aneesh Chaganty manages to tell a story that draws the audience into each step as if they are actually clicking on each new segment. This immersive technique allows for a significant emotional impact that will draw viewers into the storyline in a subtle, but meaningful manner. From the UP! inspired beginning of each component of the investigation, this is a fresh perspective that provides an immersive aspect that will draw people into the drama.
Instead of scaring people with the influence of technology on the lives of today’s children, the message proves that the most critical force in the lives of this generation is loving and involved parents. The internet can involve different terrifying elements for parents, but it can also be an essential aspect of solving today’s problems. Searching has its plot issues and is not a perfect film, but the overall quality production contains an important message for families around the world.
Like money, the internet and social media are amoral elements in our society that can be used for good or evil. People can rail against the evils of these web-based items that have infiltrated our modern lives, but the root issue of evil is not with the tools themselves, but the users. The warnings do not need to be about these tools as much as in how they are used. Society has to come to terms with the fact that no-one is truly anonymous in the world. Every keystroke and swipe has its consequences and there is an accountability for each action. Either in this life or in the next. Also, the evil that is seen on the internet comes from within the hearts of those using it. To deal with the problem, people need to turn their cameras on themselves and do some reflection.
Questions for teenagers:
- Have you ever been bullied online? How did this make you feel? Did you tell an adult or teacher about this?
- Keeping secrets about our behaviour online can put us in danger. Why?
- Is your behaviour different online to offline? Do you consider your online behaviour a reflection of your interactions in real life? Read Romans 13:13: What standards does God want us to live by?
- Taking time to ask how your behaviour and appearance are perceived by others is an important part of being a Christian. Do you think we can influence others? Why/Why not? Read 1 Peter 2:12, what does it say about glorifying God in everyday life?
- In the time the Bible was written there was obviously no such thing as social media, but do you think our attitudes, relationships and behaviour should change in the advent of technology? Why/Why not?
- One of the greatest witnesses is setting a Godly example, this is not to say we don’t make mistakes but should we strive to offer something different to the world? Read Romans 12: 2. How can we be counter-cultural in the world of social media.
Questions for parents:
- How important is it for you to moderate and put boundaries around your children’s online behaviour? Why/Why not?
- Do you feel powerless when it comes to understanding social media usage? If you allow its usage, then for the safety of the child it should be constantly moderated.
- The film depicts a parent whose teen has disappeared creating an online persona that didn’t match her real-life interactions. The ‘what if?’ implications of the film are shocking, but how does it cause us to take stock of what our children are doing, seeing and interacting with online?
- Healthy boundaries define expectations and show respect for others. Read Romans 6:23, how does God describe boundaries?
- Screens and teens: survival tips for parents on the technology battlefield
- How Tech Experts Monitor Their Teens on Social Media
- Raising the screen generation
Searching is in cinemas 13 September.
Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger.
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