I’m Here – When Androids Dream of Electric Sheep

Spike Jonze’s latest short film, I’m Here, was released online about 2 weeks ago, and I finally got myself a ticket to watch it. First up, it’s an interesting experiment, releasing an online film just like a real movie, with release timings and seating limits. I'm Here For the first day or so the digital queues to watch I’m Here were probably snaking all the way around the virtual cinema (I wouldn’t know, I gave up after 2 tries), but the hype has slowed down and those who decided to wait can now finally watch the show freely. Here are some of my thoughts after watching it, with some minor spoilers ahead!

This is Spike Jonze’s first project after Where the Wild Things Are and once again he is in fine form. I’m Here is a simple story of love and sacrifice delivered in Jonze’s own quirky way. The visual feel of both WTWTA and I’m Here are pretty similar, with warm, serpia tones imparting a wistful, ethereal feel throughout it and this time instead of huge monsters, we have robots. I’m surprised that it wasn’t Jim Henson’s Creature Shop working on the robots, given the previous success, but this is still a pretty darn good job – the robots are very, very expressive.

So robots are walking our streets, performing the menial tasks that humans no longer want to do. They aren’t just robots of today, however, these automatons have homes, and even proper lives, or as close as a facsimile as possible. These robots have become ostracised and have certain rights denied them, even though they seem capable of most things. This reminded me instantly of District 9, but in the end, the full capabilities of the robots are beside the point – their just a vehicle for the story. Our protagonist, Sheldon, leads a humdrum life which he doesn’t seem to mind too much. But he yearns for a life less ordinary, and so Sheldon meets Francesca a robot that drives, and that laughs freely and this freedom calls out to him. He responds – and that is when his life opens up. Adventures he’d have previously been too shy to pursue are explored, triggered by Francesca’s free spirit. But joy turns to sacrifice when an accident happens – and it all snowballs from there. Turns out that Francesca is somewhat of a klutz, and while it doesn’t seem like she’s manipulating Sheldon for his kidneys (digital kidneys?) Sheldon’s sacrifices continue. Reading that this show was largely influenced by Jonze’s romance with Michelle Williams, I think one can begin to fit the pieces together as we witness Jonze deconstruct that love.

Strangely, heart wrenching as the ending might be, I wasn’t moved to tears. I don’t think it’s that the situation isn’t touching, but I guess in 30 minutes it’s not easy to flesh out both a world and a love, and also endure the clumsiness of Francesca who should know better after the first time. This then, stripped down to its core, is a fable about love so intense, so puzzling, but so true. And hey! Robots! (There’s a very nice bit about robots and dreaming too.)

A little bit (500) days of summer, a little bit District 9, and a whole lot of Spike Jonze, I’m Here is another feather in the plumage of Spike Jonze, and it magic touches us as we watch on. You’d need to be some robot to not feel at least a twinge after watching this.

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