I’m Here is a sci-fi romance short film written and directed by Spike Jonze. The film first premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and is one of Jonze’s most moving and nuanced films to date.
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The short film gives a unique look at an alternative world where robotic humanoids live and work amidst the regular hustle and bustle of a human population not unlike our own. A romantic story about two robots living in Los Angeles, the central theme of I’m Here is the notion of two people in love – and it is tackled from all angles, portraying the slants and nuances of a universal concept but in such a unique setting. Quintessentially, I’m Here serves as a vehicle for exploring themes as old as story-telling itself: love and the sacrifices we make for it, the eagerness to find meaning in life, and the pursuit of happiness.
In the opening sequences, I’m Here quickly establishes the nature of one robot Sheldon’s life – scenes of quiet bus rides, Sheldon’s menial job working in a library, lonesome robots recharging their batteries in empty apartments all reflect how austere, mundane and incomplete Sheldon’s existence is. That is until he meets Francesca, a female whom he befriends and quickly falls in love with. Francesca’s personality is antithetical to Sheldon’s – bold, fun-loving and seemingly more human than robot. Because of her, Sheldon realizes that there is more to his existence than the mere banality he lives with. The film follows Sheldon as he discovers his capacity for dreaming, creativity, love, and how much he has to give.
Although the story itself is heartfelt, I’m Here does not depict love through rose-tinted glasses. It portrays the dynamics in love as one of dismantling and then repair. Reminiscent of the classic tale The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, I’m Here provides a sobering reminder of the possibility of losing oneself in relationships that may not be healthy, and the clouding of judgement that comes with being intoxicated by love for another. The audience is faced with the daunting realization that is both morbid and moving – that Sheldon, enamoured with Francesca, willingly gives so much of himself to their relationship at his own expense. So much so that by the end of the film, he has not much left – a realization that Sheldon himself does not seem to make.
Jonze captures the very simple moments of day-to-day human life with elegant cinematography and story-telling: moments in empty parking lots late at night, or the questions we ask ourselves about what our dreams mean to us, and the coldness and warmth we find in others. By using robotic characters to reflect the human condition – and that, the human condition, is the crux of the film – I’m Here feels close to heart and believable despite it being a story that comes from an unexpected and unlooked-for place. The emotions in the film are also underscored by a beautiful soundtrack – a melange of haunting and uplifting music from artists such as Aska Matsumiya, Animal Collective, Girls and Sam Spiegel.
I’m Here can be viewed online, where a theatrical experience is recreated to yet again remind you of what a classic story this film is. The film is simple, and by the end of it, beautiful and heartbreaking. Give it the short 30 minutes it asks for and you will find yourself completely immersed in and wowed by Jonze’s simultaneously fantastical and believable world.