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Laramie Movie Scope: Searching

A daughter disappears and a father searches frantically

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 1, 2018 – This taut, twisty suspense thriller is told mostly through computer screens running on old Windows XP software. This is very cleverly done, but the gimmick turns what could have been a more dynamic movie into a somewhat static one.

The computer screens showing pictures, video and text messages show us pretty much everything in this movie, from the birth of the child in question, Margot Kim (played by Michelle La as a high school student) to her becoming a high school student. We also see her with her mother and father, David Kim (played by John Cho of the recent Star Trek and Harold and Kumar movies) followed by her mother's death from illness.

This clever background information gives us hints that although David tells everyone that things are fine in his family, his daughter is having a tough time dealing with the death of her mother. One day, Margot goes missing and David becomes increasingly frantic and frustrated as he to tries to find her. After calling, texting, searching and finding nothing, he contacts the police.

A decorated officer, Detective Vick (Debra Messing of “The Women”) seems very competent and compassionate. Vick encourages David to find out all he can about his daughter through her phone contacts, her laptop and her social media accounts. David soon finds out that his daughter was up to a number of activities he was not aware of. She had transferred money to herself using an online service to hide traces of the transaction, and she had lied to her father about certain other activities for months.

It begins to look like maybe Margot was involved in drugs or prostitution, or both. David becomes increasingly frantic trying to find Margot. News outlets get the story and the internet explodes with stupid conspiracy theories about Margot's disappearance. This film, in addition to the computer screen scenes, also uses a lot of split screens to show two people talking on the phone, such as Vick and Kim.

This story has a lot of twists and turns. There are false leads and false reports about what is going on. The story is not very believable, but it is compelling because of the fine performances by Cho and Messing. I enjoyed the final twists in the story as we learn that things are not what they seem to be at first. The final twists are not believable either, but they are very satisfying.

The visual style of this story is unique. It tells a story largely with images, but not the usual kind of images used in movie storytelling. It will be very accessible to the computer literate, but perhaps incomprehensible to the computer illiterate among us. This story is presented almost entirely on computer and phone screens, using familiar types of services, such as text, voice and video messaging, Google, Facebook, Twitter and others.

This movie illustrates again that for users of social media especially, there are no secrets. David is able to find out intimate details of his daughter's secret life, and the secrets of others as well, by breaking into his daughter's social media accounts using her laptop computer.

While I think this movie went overboard with the computer screen scenes, it is cleverly written and directed by Aneesh Chaganty of “Adventure, Wisconsin.” The story is compelling and there are good performances which make the main characters worth following. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]