Searching: 7 Clues You Missed That Gave Away The Movie's Twist
By Kevin Wong on
Countless thriller films leverage technology to manufacture scares. But Searching goes one step further. Similar to Unfriended (which innovated the following approach; Searching has now perfected it), the entire story is told through app and website interfaces, across FaceTime, Facebook, YouTube, and more.
It's about recent widower David (John Cho), who's raising teenage daughter Margot by himself. When Margot (Michelle La) goes missing, David investigates her social media platforms to determine what happened to her.
Social media is an information overload, and the movie, correspondingly, is flooded with small details: status updates, video comments, and trending news. Searching is the type of movie that home video and the pause button were made for.
Warning: Spoilers below.
In the end, we learn that lead investigating police officer Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing) has been covering for her son Robert (Steven Michael Eich)--the actual killer--the entire time. She first tries to convince David that his daughter is a runaway, and when that fails, she pins the crime on a local sex offender. The audience (and David) falls for her ruse; most citizens have an inherent trust of authority figures, which the movie exacerbates with numerous red herrings.
Scattered amongst these distractions, though, are several relevant clues to the true identity of the movie's villain. Here are 7 you might have missed. They're a testament to the filmmakers' attention to detail.
1. Uncle Peter makes kimchi gumbo for Margot.
For much of the film, the timeline regarding Margot's disappearance doesn't line up. Her study buddies confirm that she left the late-night study session at 9 PM, even though Margot told David she would be studying all night. Near the end of the movie, we finally learn that after the study session, Margot went to her Uncle Peter's house to have dinner and pick up weed.
There were a couple of hints. Remember the beginning of the film: Peter contacts David, because he's cooking Pam's (the late mother's) kimchi gumbo, and he needs the recipe. That's because Margot is coming over to Peter's house for dinner; he wanted to make her something special. Also, Peter is puzzled when David tells him that Margot is at an all-night study session. And no wonder: you can hear Margot ringing Peter's doorbell right before he disconnects his call.
2. Detective Rosemary Vick tells a revealing story.
For most of the movie, Detective Vick seems like a dedicated hero cop. But in one particular late-night conversation with David, she reveals her core dishonesty.
Vick tells David a story about her son, who extorted money from neighbors by inventing a police charity. And when David asks her how she reacted, Vick admits she went along with the lie instead of revealing her son's misdeeds. At the time, it seems like a loving, maternal anecdote. Only later do we realize how far she is willing to go to protect her son.
4. Robert is in Pam's contact list.
This one happens quickly. Remember how Pam, Margot's mother, has an extensive database of Margot's classmates? David scrolls through this spreadsheet near the beginning of the movie, and near the top of the page, there is an entry for Robert. Pam even made a note that Robert had a crush on Margot, confirming what Detective Vick later states in her confession. Robert's last name isn't Vick, which might have thrown some people off; a different column notes that his parents are divorced.
3. Robert has a particular, favorite Pokemon.
We learn that the YouCast user fish_n_chips is Robert; he pretended, for months, to be a waitress named Hannah to get closer to Margot. That's why "Hannah" also had a mother with cancer; Robert knew which biographical details would make Margot vulnerable.
But in his first conversation with Margo, Robert gives away an important detail. He says that his favorite Pokemon is Kecleon. Why? According to the official Pokemon guide: "Kecleon is capable of changing its body colors at will to blend in with its surroundings." How appropriate.
5. "Are you at the lake?"
Here's the classic criminal pitfall, where the suspect accidentally reveals a detail that only the guilty party would know. When David has a late-night realization that Margot was heading towards the lake on the night she disappeared, he calls Vick to tell her that he's made a break in the case. She calls back later to ask, "Are you at the lake?"
David never said, specifically, that he was heading to the lake. How would Vick have known about the lake unless she was hiding something there? Thankfully for her, neither David nor the audience picks up on her incriminating error.
6. "Sweetheart, let me take care of this."
During one of David's late night FaceTime sessions with Vick, Robert makes an on-camera appearance. He appears from his body language to be nervous; perhaps he's feeling guilty and wants to confess?
But Vick puts a stop to this and says to him, "Sweetheart, let me take care of this." It's an odd, awkward phrasing that, given what we now know, seems especially creepy. It also lends some degree of pity for Robert; at this point, he's lost control over the narrative. His mother is burying his crime, regardless of whether or not he wants to cop to it.
7. Incoming alien film?
According to Ohanian, there are numerous subplots taking place in the background of the film via news reports and status updates. One of them seems to be an alien conspiracy; you can see one of several mentions in the trailer screenshot above. Are these closed narratives? Or are they clever foreshadowing for the filmmakers' future projects? Or something else entirely
There's only so much Easter egg hunting that one can do during Searching's theater run. Fans will have to wait until the movie's home release to track down and analyze everything. Searching is a movie about the Internet that was made for the Internet. And no doubt, the hive mind will dissect every frame in the weeks and months ahead.