Don't be led astray by the title; no one in this movie is physically looking for Bobby Fischer, the eccentric chess genius. This 1993 film is actually based on a book by Fred Waitzkin, father of real- life chess prodigy Josh. It details their journey through the weird world of chess tournaments. I haven't read the book, so this is a discussion of the movie.
'Searching' starts out with 7-year-old Josh's mom, Bonnie, realizing that he has somehow learned to play chess by watching hustlers play for money in Washington Square. She relays this information to Josh's father, Fred, who digs out an old chess set and challenges him to a game. This results in a touching scene where we see Josh deliberately lose out of concern for his father's feelings. Of course, when Bonnie convinces him to actually try, Josh effortlessly defeats his dad.
Josh begins playing speed chess with the park hustlers, especially one named Vinnie, who teaches him a blitz game of fast moves and tricky plays. The crowd which gathers to watch begins to compare Josh to a "young Fischer". Meanwhile, his parents must face the fact that their son has a gift they don't understand and aren't sure what to do about. They get Josh a chess tutor- Bruce Pandolfini- and venture uncertainly into the world of competitive chess. Pandolfini tells them that, since Bobby Fischer disappeared, the chess world has needed a new 'hero' to restore the magic that Fischer took with him when he left. He says Josh could do that- that he "creates" like Fischer, instead of merely copying his strategies, like all the current chess masters. Which is a lot to place on the shoulders of one small 7-year-old boy.
What follows is a brilliant and beautiful story which is more than a simple narrative about a child chess prodigy. Rather, it's an examination of various themes and issues- childhood, family relationships, the nature of competition- set against the backdrop of chess tournaments.
As Josh struggles to find balance amid the pressures of competition, expectations, and maintaining a normal life, the movie occasionally cuts away to actual film footage of Bobby Fischer's life and career. Narrated by Josh, they show Fischer's progression from a lonely, gifted boy to an arrogant and increasingly unbalanced international chess star. Part of the tension of S.F.B.F. is derived from watching some of the same pressures being brought to bear on Josh, and wondering if he will find himself pushed down the same road, or if he'll find his own, better way.