REVIEW: I’m Here [2010]

“I love music yes, I think”

What would you do for love? That is the question Spike Jonze posits with his new short film I’m Here. Brought to us for free on its website by Absolut Vodka, after debuting at Sundance, the tale is a love story between two robots in a world where coexistence with humans is possible. The machines may be looked upon as second-class citizens, holding down menial jobs and not being allowed to drive cars, yet they do what they can to enjoy life. When a lonely librarian’s assistant named Sheldon catches a glimpse of the bold female bot behind the wheel of an automobile while she is berated by an elderly woman on the sidewalk telling her it’s not allowed, his entire way of life is changed. Perhaps this man has more to give then what he’s thought.

Falling in love changes him, from his demeanor and attitude to his actions. Always the wallflower going about his day to day routine of riding the bus, going to work, and coming home to plug in for the night, once Andrew Garfield’s Sheldon meets Sienna Guillory’s muse, he finds purpose in going on. Off he goes with her and her friends to partake in parking lot craziness, (the friends are an interesting bunch, especially the shirtless hippy human that enjoys lighting matches on Sheldon’s face), and have parties. This girl has given him the knowledge of creativity and excitement, a love as sweet and affectionate as can be. The two plug into the power machine on the wall together at night and always touch heads when parting—a quasi robot kiss.

The robots aren’t indestructible though, and this is something we discover very early on with a shattered creature on the road, unable to get up after an accident. Sheldon’s safe life has kept him virtually untouched and in pristine shape, allowing him to find spare parts and tools to collect in case something goes wrong. His finger even uncaps to be a screwdriver for quick fixes on the fly. Guillory’s character isn’t so cautious and the danger that makes her so attractive to him gets her into trouble, whether at a concert of her favorite band The Lost Trees, (composed of pianist/singer Aska Matsumiya, a woman I hope to discover more music from), or coming home to work, she is slowly falling apart, but never beaten as she has Sheldon to come home to. She has changed his life and he is more than willing to return the favor in a way that only objects with removable parts can.

Aesthetically, I’m Here is quite the artwork. Using old beaten up harddrives with a touch of computer graphics to make the eyes and lips be as organic as possible, the world has a nostalgic feel in its futuristic construct of living robots. Having actors inside the costumes allows for an authenticity that would be sorely lacking had they been fully animated; the motions of the two leads go a long way to express their feelings for one another, much more than the words spoken. So many shots are memorable as well with the juxtaposition of machines against sky and grass, seeing these two roaming the forest with a childlike playfulness showing how much they care for each other. It isn’t all deliberate and dreamlike, though, a nightmarish kinetic sequence of robotic surgery comes in later on, putting the loud and abrasive noises of metal on metal side by side with the complete selflessness of the action at the procedure’s center.

Jonze has created a very sweet look into the relationship of two souls who meet by coincidence. The bond they have for each other is as strong as any, yet they are inanimate objects devoid of real feelings. They can only dream or love by making it up in their computer programming and believing in it in order to live it. You can go through life with a plan from start to finish, but until you look outside the box and at all the creative/innovative things out there for the taking, you can never truly live. If two robots can find the willingness to be there for one another when they have no reason to, one has to hold out hope that humanity can eventually reach that point too. It is in the innocence of being happy that differences can be put aside; peace and love is possible, you just have to want it. Sometimes having someone to live for can go along way to achieving that state of mind.

I’m Here 8/10 | ★ ★ ★

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