searchingThe secret world of a teenager’s digital life is explored in this engaging desktop thriller. It is a Hitchcockian Rear Window for the modern generation, with the action taking place entirely within the confines of an electronic screen.

Helming his first feature film, writer/director Aneesh Chaganty has dipped his digital toes into the growing pool of Bekmambetov styled desktop thrillers.  It’s a bold move for the fledgeling director, who almost pulls it off. 

John Cho (Star Trek) plays David, a recent widower who is managing to keep it together as a solo dad.  But when his teenage daughter fails to return home one night, things begin to unravel. Her disappearance is as much a mystery to the case Detective Vick (played by Debra Messing) as it is to David.  His desperate investigations into her whereabouts traverse a dizzying scape of social media and streaming sites which lead him down a warren of false-turns, dead-ends, and red-herrings. The bulk of the film is essentially David getting to know his daughter without actually spending any time with her.

It’s engaging stuff and the format offers fertile ground to garner insights from its characters as it flits between various online services. A momentary mouse pause over an icon or word deleted during a message speak volumes for what is going through David’s mind, and here it is used to full dramatic effect.

Unfortunately, when the action is required further afield, things begin to derail. Beholden to its modus operandi, the enforced confines of the digital screen are stretched to breaking point and when David is required to visit other locations the film can’t quite maintain a sense of plausibility. It begins relying on tropes such as streaming news-casts to elucidate proceedings beyond what they would normally do. And despite director Chaganty’s noble efforts, the action begins to feel awkward and slightly gimmicky.

That said, it is just this gimmick that elevates Searching above what would’ve otherwise been a bog-standard crime thriller. So, “like” to that at least.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.


waynePerhaps stymied by the calibre of great documentaries currently showing, Wayne, a film about Australia’s celebrated two-wheeled maestro, doesn’t quite achieve pole position.

The film tells the tale of Aussie racing legend Wayne Gardner, who rose through the ranks from a five-dollar dirt bike rider to World Motorcycle Grand Prix Champion.  He became a household name in the eighties, quite literally—even I’d heard of him, which is saying something. 

The film gets off the grid with a turbo-charged montage of the titular leather-clad Aussie sporting hero; revving bikes, adoring fans, mullets and stubbies in full force, and all to the backdrop of a wailing Jimmy Barnes.  It’s a pulsating and glorious snapshot of eighties Australia in full effect. Unfortunately, the film never manages to maintain that level of energy and backs off the throttle into a more dulcet tone for the remainder of the film.

Brought up by a relatively poor family in the steelwork and mining town of Wollongong, Gardner’s story follows a familiar trajectory common to many sporting heroes; a blinkered passion for the sport, strained relationships, triumph in the face of adversity—it’s all there. But where this doco is most interesting is the effect Gardner had on Australia’s many adoring fans at a time when the big red country was flexing its muscles on the sporting world. 

Considering it’s his first feature documentary, Director Jeremy Sims (Last Cab to Darwin) has done an adequate job. He has, however, been found disappointingly short of archival footage of Gardner’s early life, and his decision to plug the gaps with quasi-anime styled cartoons is an odd one—perhaps a wink to the Japanese bikes on show, but here it feels out of sorts with the rest of the documentary.

Wayne will definitely appeal to past and present enthusiasts of the sport, or the man himself.  Beyond that, it remains frustratingly mild and all too briefly hits top gear.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.