Ben Hickernell’s What We Found is a crime thriller with a focus on a trio of young friends who take the case of a missing student into their own hands.
The film explores a coming-of-age narrative through the lens of an unexpected and tense event. Holly (Oona Laurence), Marcus (Jordan Hall), and Grant (Julian Shatkin) are best friends, who start to fall apart as they enter high school, and must separate due to their home life and income level.
What We Found explores issues of drug dealing, police corruption, and socioeconomic class differences. When Holly and Marcus start at a different high school than their friend Grant, who’s parents are well-off and can afford a private school.
Even though they are at different schools, the film finds ways for the trio to come back together, especially in relation to the center plot of solving the murder of a fellow student, Cassie (Giorgia Whigham).
What We Found works the best when it has something to say, which can be anything from the dangers of getting involved in dealing with drugs or how bad a family life can impact all aspects of your life.
One moment, in particular, that does a great job showing this is when Holly, Marcus, and Grant all reunite with their parents, and we can see the differences in how these reunions go, especially the intense way Holly’s abusive father goes from loving to willing to hurt her in seconds. Oona Laurence does excellent work in her scenes, and we can clearly see how uncomfortable her character is throughout the film.
What We Found does a great job of building so many interesting and important relationships. Marcus’s relationship with his friends is great and worthy of being front-and-center, but he also has a very loving relationship with his mother played wonderfully by Yetide Badaki. The film explores the struggles of a single mother raising a child, and always shows the importance of her in Marcus’s life.
Mixing Tense Moments and The Coming-of-Age Story
What We Found does a good job balancing its social commentary with its mystery and tension. The film might not be hiding its reveals of what happened to Cassie and just who might be involved, but the tension works well to establish the thriller tone.
Moments involving Clay’s (Brandon Larracuente) interactions with the main trio work especially well. He plays the dark and dangerous high school student well and offers enough heart to not doubt his moments of kindness.
Elizabeth Mitchell and James Ransone play off each other well in their scenes dealing with the police side of this crime-centered story. There are feelings of doubt and tension between the pair, which paints a clear tone across the film.
Cinematography Adds to Thriller Atmosphere
What We Found looks beautiful, especially in its scenes of the main trio exploring the forest and rediscovering the fort they built together.
In an early scene, Holly and Marcus go along with their new high school friends to some ruins in the woods, where all the kids go to smoke pot. The brightness of this moment works perfectly to create a dissonance with the dark tone of the interactions that take place in this deserted location.
Having most of the film set during the day allows the dark tone of the story to come through, while still showcasing the lighter, more friendship oriented aspects of the film.
What We Found utilizes moments set at night to show hope and bring joy into the lives of its main characters, especially the trio of friends who come together to watch the stars. These scenes look good and also play with the idea that the darkness does not always have to be foreboding, even in a thriller.
Genre Blend Helps Build a Memorable Experience
What We Found creates a nice blend of its thriller aspects with a well-developed friendship that could possibly have been given more focus than it did, but still works. The friendship dynamic felt realistic.
Holly, Marcus, and Grant feel like three people, no matter their differences, that would actually be friends. In films focusing on young friends, believing that they would be friends is so important, and this film nails that.
The different genres work well here and help build upon each other. The kindness of the moments of friendship makes the scenes dealing with uncovering dead bodies, covering up for drug dealers, and getting into fights that much darker.
What We Found works the best in its moments that combine the childhood characters with the thriller aspects, instead of separating them into two separate stories. There are moments in the film where the two sides of the film are more separated, but these do not work nearly as well.
What We Found is a well-paced thriller that explores important issues while blending darker elements with a realistic and engaging friendship at its core.
Do you like films that blend childhood coming-of-age with darker elements? Share your thoughts in the comments.
What We Found is playing in select theaters and will be available on VOD August 4th
Watch What We Found
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