Searching: Layers of identity in the Digital Age

One of my most recent watches on Netflix was a film called Searching (2018). The film follows protagonist David Kim (John Cho) as he experiences every parent’s worst fear – their child going missing. Throughout the film he plays detective and partners with the police in order to find the truth and try and bring his daughter home. I remember wanting to watch this when it first came out but (annoyingly) it wasn’t showing at as many cinemas near me as I would have liked. And when it did it would be showing at weird times like 10pm and who is honestly going to the cinema at that time?!

Do we ever truly know someone?

This is a question I found hanging in the air as many thoughts passed through my mind as I watched Searching. Although I myself am not a parent I could imagine it is something many parents themselves wonder about their children, particularly in the day and age we live in. Social media means many people can carefully select the side of themselves they want exposed to their followers/ those that admire them. If you have watched the Netflix series One Day at a Time the mother of the family it chronicles in one episode discovers that her son has what is known as a ‘Finsta’ – a fake Instagram account specifically created to cater to the prying eyes of parents who love to monitor their child(ren)’s social media. This is not the case in Searching but it is a demonstration of in-authenticity that social media enables and how users can manipulate how they’re seen in followers’ eyes at will.

One thing that is the case for David though is that he discovers – devastatingly so – that he never really knew Margot, his only child. I can only imagine that such a discovery would be a shock to the system of a parent; it brings into question trust, arouses fear and often threatens the very foundation of a maternal or paternal relationship. David’s daughter, Margot is a loner who often eats lunch alone and fails to associate with a group of friends. This unfortunately creates much difficulty in David’s investigation since he is unable to find any close friends that would know details about Margot’s whereabouts. Many dead ends occur and as a viewer you can feel David’s bubbling frustration as well as the thought lurking somewhere in the back of his mind – that she may no longer be alive. It is evident that part of the reason for the disconnect between David and Margot is maybe generational. David, as a parent from a previous generation is slightly in the dark about the availability of social media forums. At one point he’s led to his daughter’s tumbler and reacts in a way that shows he’s never heard the platform’s name in his life. This gap in knowledge may be frustrating for parents once they know it’s there but many children actually find it beneficial.

David desperately looking through Margot’s Facebook friend’s to find a lead on where she is.

Keeping to the theme of truly knowing someone, no one is who they seem in this theme which leaves room for several plot twists at the end of this film. Since Margot is a loner it means that the film cleverly avoids the solid formula of a whodunit. This is simply because the pool of people to suspect is so small that the possibility of stranger being involved almost makes more sense. It also means we see David reach several dead ends in his self-fuelled investigation to find her.

Interestingly, a significant proportion of the film takes place online. We are given all round access as David, for example attempts to log into his daughter’s social media, FaceTimes various contacts and uses google maps to access a location he wants to visit. I’m personally a low-key fan of tech interactions being shown on screen – i.e. seeing texts on screen between characters. It creates a transparency that I appreciate and helps to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings within the storyline. Of course, I can understand the devil’s advocate position may be that it doesn’t leave room perhaps for interpretation. Nevertheless, it means we’re learning information in real time along with David himself as he discovers information. The only thing I found slightly unrealistic was that David was able to access somehow to his daughter’s social media. Something tells me that most parents wouldn’t find it that easy or even succeed at all if the situation required for them to access their child’s social media accounts. Especially if they’re as close to their child as David is to Margot (which is not at all.)

I’m not too sure about the ending since I think I saw part of it coming. I wouldn’t outright call it ‘bad’ but there is definitely room for improvement. Overall, I enjoyed the film; there’s enough going on for you to stay gripped and guessing – just not till the end since you’ll likely see that coming before you reach it.

An Honest Review: American Son

Hey Guys,

I decided to mix it up a bit and write a film review today.

American Son poster
Image source: https://uk.newonnetflix.info/info/81024100

Quick Synopsis: At the start of the film we meet a concerned mother (Kerry Washington, best known from the show Scandal) who is waiting at the police station to enquire about her child. Later on, the father (Steven Pasquale) joins the picture and together they wait to find out the mystery of where their child is. It’s worth noting before I start my review that race matters in this film. Kerry’s character is a black psychology lecturer married to a white FBI officer, and together they have a mixed-race child.

My Thoughts:

A lot of ground is covered- but beautifully so in this film. It’s easy at first to think of it as a 3D case study of police brutality. But more lurks beneath the surface; through the husband and wife interactions more is explored regarding the intricacies of interracial relationships, being mixed race/ black in America, discrimination and parenthood.

What makes this film quite unique is that it doesn’t have a big cast (only around 4 actors) and the location is the same throughout. So from a distance, it would be easy to assume not much is going on. However, we learn an awful lot about the characters as time goes on and it’s those revelations that shape the film and (fairly slow-moving) plotline. Ultimately, whilst distracting us from the hanging question ‘what happened to the son?!’.

I was in awe of the acting, you could feel Kerry’s character’s pain which helped to amplify the tension. It might sound dramatic but your heart does hurt several times throughout the film for her. Also, the push- and pull nature displayed between the spouses throughout the film, made an intriguing watch.

Overall, I would give this film an 8.5/10. A tense watch (not sure I would handle seeing it on the big screen) so perfect for Netflix, which it is available to watch on.

 

 

Cutting through the noise

You’re enough. You’re blessed. You’re fabulous. In fact, you’re pretty darn amazing. You may not see it from time to time and sometimes the negative thoughts become like a dark haze, causing your amazing-ness obscure from view. But trust me, it remains a fact- so never forget that.

I write these words for anyone who is going through a rough patch and needs to hear it. But I also write these as a note to myself. Recently feelings of self-doubt and insecurity have been slowly flooding the walls of my mind and it has honestly felt quite tiring and unbearable at times. But insecurities are like that, they can end up silently leeching your energy and you won’t even know until you have none left. A good visual image to imagine how it feels is a cliche film scene where the female character enters the bathtub and submerges herself in the water. There’s a deafening pause as you wonder if she will arise again and choose life. And she always does. Gasping for air and slightly panicked, but she always does.

In the same way, when flooded with the thoughts we have to come back fighting. It’s definitely hard, but equally as possible. I believe that for every deafening feeling of self-doubt we have God is screaming even louder the words I started the blog with. Constantly. All the time. We just have to make the active choice to cut through the noise and listen. Over the voices of society or our peers. But most importantly, over the voices of ourselves.

La La Land-an honest review

la-la-land

This film swept the floor at the Critic’s Choice Movie Awards, Golden Globes AND the Academy Awards (Oscars). Naturally, I therefore had high expectations. For those yet to see it, I’ve decided to do an honest breakdown of what I thought.

La La Land stars Ryan Gosling (Sebastian) and Emma Stone (Mia), who have in the past starred together in the romantic comedy Crazy, Stupid Love. The banter between these two characters made me smile throughout. Although, I’ve only really seen Gosling play reserved characters, Stone seemed in her zone with her character Mia who is goofy, passionate and dreamy. The scene where she is dancing to the music Gosling’s jazz ensemble is playing, was a great highlight.

Of course, this is a musical so it wouldn’t make sense for me to review it w/o mentioning how I felt about the vocals and soundtrack. Emma and Ryan don’t have the most exceptional voices in the world but I felt this made it sincere and translated the emotion much better. For soundtracks buffs I would recommend ‘City of Stars’ by Gosling and Stone and ‘The Fools who dream’ by Stone.

Throughout the film bright vivid colours flood the senses, mixed with nice American scenery. This gives a fantasy element to it all- a feeling sealed by the repeated scene of the two main characters dancing along a star studded background. This is certainly a film built for aesthetics and that ‘feel good’ factor- there (to me) isn’t any hidden or embedded meaning we should be looking for. I state this specifically because before watching the film I did read a review talking about the White erasure of Jazz’s black history. Watching it now, I disagree simply because I take La La Land to be a surface level film. It wasn’t trying to enact history and therefore does not need to carry the burden of historical accuracy.

Personally, I saw the film as a fight between reality and dreams, with Mia and Sebastian’s relationship on the border of the two. Mia tries throughout the film to reconcile her dreams with reality in terms of her relationship with Sebastian and her theatrical dreams. In contrast, Sebastian puts his dreams on hold when reality calls.

Overall, this film certainly makes an enjoyable watch; I would say 4.8/5. My only criticism would be that there could have been a clearer direction for the film in terms of plot. I can’t even say the plot’s quality is sacrificed for character development because I didn’t see huge character transformation (of even Mia or Seb) within the film. I mean, yes, their circumstances definitely do change by the end but whether they themselves do is not really known. Nevertheless, despite the deliberate uncertainty at the end you can leave the cinema feeling satisfied; which is all that matters in the end, right?

*Picture from: http://www.empirecinemas.co.uk/synopsis/la_la_land/f5293 *