Searching will instantly seem jarring. The first thing we see is a computer desktop screen, as the father David looks at photos of his daughter Margot and his dead wife Pamela. The death of Pamela seems to have happened about five years previous.
It is subtle if you aren’t looking for it, but it seems clear that for the most part, the smile of Margot that is present in most of the ‘before pictures’ slowly fades after her mother’s death. It is an interesting way to present such a key point in the film. Within the first ten minutes we learn about the lingering grief that is affecting both father and daughter in different ways. As the title suggests, Margot soon goes missing. Now this may sound like a standard, typical plot, but the laptop viewpoint is again utilised; in fact the entire film is shot this way.
Is this a red flag?
After her disappearance, David decides to have a look at Margot’s laptop. He hurriedly searches through her friends list as a way to find his daughter. He calls many of the people on her face-time list, but none of them can offer any information at all. Her Facebook page lists a huge amount of ‘friends’, but in reality the people David calls all seem to echo the same sentiment: She was quiet and shy. A ‘loner’.
A detective is assigned to the case and assures David that they will find his daughter, but the two never meet face to face, it is always via the internet. In fact, apart from the scarce early scenes where David and Margot interact, all other communication is via the internet. There isn’t a single conversation that takes place in person, creating a very unique type of suspense and tension.
When the hunt for Margot grows due to a news story taking interest, the videos we see are again on a PC screen, presented with a very convincing, YouTube-like design. Despite a large group looking for Margot, David can’t help but take matters into his own hands, obsessively trying to find her. He is told many times to not meddle with the investigation; he of course ignores this advice and uses his daughter’s computer again to find clues.
When looking at her different social media accounts he learns perhaps more than he wanted to know about his daughter and this seems to disturb him almost as much as her disappearance. He also learns how she was bullied online; another relevant, brief part of the film where we see excessive ‘trolling’ that is unfortunately extremely prevalent today. Hell, just look at the president of the United States.
As he digs further into his daughter’s computer for that missing clue, another aspect becomes apparent: David does not know his daughter at all. He thought he did, but after the death of her mother she had been incredibly distant towards him, which is suggested in the early scenes of the film. David is somehow oblivious to this. But if a mother dies, how can a father truly understand what a sixteen year old girl is going through?
The technique used to make the entire film – making a film from the point of view of a computer screen/webcam – is honed to a razor sharp point. This is a big gamble that pays off, as it is executed extremely well and sets it apart from any other film. It also is a visual way to make its point. Which is simple: We use computers and the internet far, far too often. In fact, the filming is so seamless, it doesn’t take long for this method to float away as the hunt for Margot increases. The story is so riveting and creatively designed that none of these issues seem preachy at all, especially with the tension that this film breeds. This is a very unique film that has the potential to influence future filmmakers.
A full sixer, I loved every minute of it.