Sundance 2021 – Searchers

Online dating is already a beast of its own, and to add a pandemic on top of it? Director Pacho Velez takes a simple concept and style and wrings out something real charming. Featuring a terrifically diverse group of people in New York City, Velez interviews them about their hopes and struggles doing online dating in a pandemic. Both humorous and heartwarming, these people and how they navigate all these different dating apps reveals how we’re all just looking for human connection however we can.

Reminiscent of the interview style of Errol Morris, our subjects look directly into the camera where a soft overlay of the dating app is in the foreground, while they instruct somebody else what to click/swipe on. This setup becomes an almost form of a therapy session, and reveals some poignant little interactions and remarks. Speaking of the anxiety of meeting in person, one person remarks “As soon as they walk through that door, they’re no longer that image.” There’s a distinctively New York feel to these characters, some of them could slide right into a Safdie Brothers movie. There were plenty of interviews that cracked me up, specifically a guy telling his mom to leave the room and her just reminding him that she was in labor for 12 hours with him. One dude tries to take an analytical approach

Velez intersperses these interviews with some pleasant shots of New York City. A jazz band plays for a streetside audience, people walking around taking couple photos, people getting married with face masks on, all revealing the ways we are all vying for human interaction right now. Searchers is not trying to say anything grand regarding online dating or romance in a pandemic, and it’s all the better for it. It’s just a simple bit of empathy reminding us we’re all trying to find love. It’s a very charming little movie, and one of the better pandemic movies we are inevitably going to get flooded with.

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