THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST
Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Starring John Cho
F.I.V.E. star rating:
F. Form: 4.5 / 5 [style, structure, technique]
I. Impression: 4 / 5 [impact, relevance, provocation]
V. Vision: 4 / 5 [audacity, innovation, perspective]
E. Experience: 4.5 / 5 [enjoyment, engagement, delight]
TOTAL: 85 / 100
The first thing you need to know about this movie is that it’s entirely made up of computer screens - think desktops, FaceTime, iMessage, web browsers. The second thing you need to know is that somehow all that disappears and you’re watching a story of a father searching for her missing daughter unfold in a way that breaks away from the two-dimensionality of the screen format.
It’s not a static screen capture we are seeing - the editing pays attention to how the screen is composed, at times zooming into a corner of the screen to highlight a detail or completely cutting to full screen mode for dramatic emphasis. FaceTime is used as a proxy for a cinematic close-up. None of these feel like a gimmick, they all serve a purpose to the story.
The canvas is flat but there remains a sense of background and foreground. Much like 3D movies don’t add any more dimension, experientially speaking, than a 2D movie, the flatness of the screen disappears once you are absorbed into the story. And this is one, incredibly gripping story filled to the brim with sharp turns and revelations that while sometimes gets a little large and ridiculous at one stage, by the end, all make logical, dramatic sense for reasons I cannot say here.
The constructed nature by how the events unfold speak so much to how easily narratives can be manufactured online, where fake news epidemically spread. Mysteries thrive on the Internet because, like a worldwide game of Chinese whispers, you add and (mis)hear what you wish. SEARCHING is the first great mystery thriller of the Internet age. Not only because of its compelling story, but because it uses the language of online screen culture to elevate the story.
I appreciated how there were no made up operating systems. They were interfaces that are familiar and ingrained into most of our everyday lives, making them that much more effective at relating to its audience emotionally. There was a montage at the beginning using early Windows OS that made me feel nostalgic. It’s a strange feeling to have because I never realised how much of my memories are now tied to digital interfaces.
The notion of digital memories are used perfectly in that beginning montage recalling that sequence from Pixar’s UP, but instead of Giacchino’s score and beautifully rendered animated sequences, it is a series of YouTube videos, text messages, email inboxes and digital images, encapsulating a family life that feels genuine and familiar. SEARCHING gets everything right. It’s emotional impact hits in all the right places, the premise is used to tell an intriguing mystery story, and director Chaganty (his first feature) makes smart directorial decisions resulting in a film that feels fresh and complete.