Squandered Potential: A Review of ‘The Search’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - March 11, 2015
Squandered Potential: A Review of ‘The Search’

The art of storytelling is such a precision craft and if you aren’t manipulating the audience in just the right way to where you need them to go it just fall flat on you pretty darn quick.  The Search while not without some good intentions, ends up getting bogged down in moments that feel disingenuous and forced as the narrative tackles a very tricky subject in a way that the filmmakers feel like that they are sitting at a well to do dinner table talking about horrible the situation is rather than trying to make us as an audience feel anything genuine inside that scenario.

It’s the year 1999 and it’s the Second Chechen War in full swing as people are desperate to merely survive.  After witnessing his parents murdered in their small village.  A young boy (Maksim Emelyanov) flees town with his infant brother, joining on onslaught of refugees looks for any kind of shelter and help that they can find, who has to leave with other refugees because he simply can’t take care of him on his own and his left catatonic and silent by the guilt of leaving him.  By chance he meets Carole (Berenice Bejo), a European Union aid worker and delegation head.  Slowly they develop a bond as she tries to coax this boy out of his shell and back to life and the time while his eldest sister Raissa who the boy thought was dead is tirelessly searching for them in hopes of reuniting what is left of her family.  While on the flip side of it all we follow young Kolia a fresh faced military recruit who we see gets corrupted and warped by the horrors of war.

The Search

While you can easily see the genuine sentimentality that writer/director Michel Hazanavicius was going for in The Search, it all ultimately lands flat like a lead balloon as we see these horrible things going on in front of us, but we are just too disconnected to care.

Michel Hazanavicius sets it all up rather well in the first 15 or so minutes and we are engaged and hooked from the get go, however it begins it’s slow downward journey soon afterwards.  It’s a well shot affair, but the more this movie introduces new characters at every turn, the more the movie drifts into a hallmark tragedy of the week kind of affair.  It tries to stand on its soapbox and make a “statement” about the depravities of war but it all feels so hollow.  Nothing he does is terribly bad but it feels like it is in a movie that is 5-7 years too late, it needed to give us more emotional meat other then the trauma’s of war and training for war.  It’s just been done too many times before and no matter how hard anyone involved wants this all to mean something, it just never gets there.

Berenice Bejo certainly tries her best and does an acceptable job as the frustrated aid worker, who can’t make her friends back home see the atrocities that she is witnessing every single day and her connection to the young boy works well as she is trying to find a way to genuinely help while he just needs the right person to out stretch their hand to him.  The other parallel stories that were going on this film just served as a distraction as the point never truly resonated.  The young Russian at war was hard to see, but Hazanavicius ruins that characters emotional build with a twist at the end which came out of a film school handbook.  It just played incredibly lazy and caused a massive let down in the films energy.  Otherwise there aren’t any other genuine characters to get behind as the sister Raissa is just too slight and Annette Bening’s just stomps around looking frustrated while throwing her hands in the air.

I’ll be the first to admit that there is a solid movie somewhere inside The Search, but it gets bogged down by too many other elements to make for a genuinely affecting story.

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David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like Examiner.com, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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