A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Movie is all about solving problems, as well as persistence/perseverance in the face of great stress and very little hope. Generosity is a virtue, and better communication between family members is encouraged. Simple "protection" of family members, no matter what they've done wrong, is discouraged.
Positive Role Models
David Kim is a sympathetic character, a problem solver, a good parent who goes to great lengths to rescue his daughter. He's also a positive, three-dimensional Asian American character. Without giving too much away, Margot performs an act of incredible generosity; it doesn't turn out well for her, but her act is nonetheless seen as admirable.
Violence & Scariness
A main character dies of cancer. A teen girl goes missing. A car is found in a lake (there's the possibility of a body inside). A man punches a teen boy. Bloody/bruised face. Spoken reference to a jaw being broken. Two men fight/brawl. A man appears to shoot himself on a video. Spoken references to beating, etc. Arguing and yelling. Threats.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief sex-related dialogue, sex-related material. Brief, wrongful assumption that an uncle is having a sexual relationship with his teen niece.
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A spoken and written use of "f---ing," plus uses of "s--t," "ass," "damn," "hella," "perv," and "oh my God" as an exclamation.
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Products & Purchases
Several tech brand names are mentioned and shown throughout: Internet Explorer, YouTube, eBay, Google, Facebook, Mircosoft, Apple iPhone, Uber, FaceTime, Gmail, Yahoo, Venmo, Norton Antivirus, etc. An Apple computer is turned on, with the familiar "gong" sound and logo. Pokémon is shown and mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A secondary character seems to be something of a drug dealer. A jar full of pot is shown. Teen drug use is inferred. Photo of teen drug use. Pipe smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Searching is a mystery starring John Cho about a missing teen that's presented entirely through/on computer screens (similar to the horror movie Unfriended). It's cleverly constructed and emotionally satisfying, as well as diverse and culturally relevant. Expect brief on-screen fighting, arguing, and yelling, as well as offscreen and verbal references to violence. A main character dies of cancer. There's a bit of sex-related dialogue and some sexual references, and there's a brief, wrongful theory that an uncle is having some kind of sexual relationship with his teen niece. Language includes one "f---ing" and uses of "perv." A secondary character appears to be a drug dealer, supplying pot (offscreen) to a teen girl. A jar filled with pot is shown, teen drug use is inferred, and there's pipe smoking. Many tech brand names are shown throughout (Google, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), but all in service to the story. Underlying everything are messages of perseverance and the need for stronger communication among family members, as well as the notion of the internet as both a useful and a dangerous place. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Perhaps inspired by the success of 2014's Unfriended, this mystery ventures in fresh, new directions while being superbly constructed, emotionally satisfying, and culturally relevant. The debut feature of director Aneesh Chaganty, who also wrote the screenplay with producer Sev Ohanian, Searching is notable for focusing on a Korean American family without making an issue of it. It frankly doesn't matter what culture the Kim family comes from (other than in the valuable representation sense, of course). What matters is what would matter to any human being when a family member is in trouble.
In the lead role, Cho does amazing things, performing largely by himself and within unconventional cameras and camera setups, reaching new emotional depths. The movie's filming techniques do recall some of the more effective things used in Unfriended and Unfriended: Dark Web, but Searching expands the genre's toolbox, going further in both time and space. And the screenplay, while suffering a few small, easily forgivable shaky spots, is a thing of beauty, furthering the story with desperate, constant propulsion, and dropping little clues in the most innocuous places. When it all comes together, it's with a most pleasurable snap.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.