Beyond 'Avatar': A Human Love Story Without Humans

By Terrence Henry
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Absolut

While some of the films that screened at SXSW will probably take some more time to arrive at a theater or Netflix distribution center near you, one of the real delights of the festival is already screening online, where you can watch it for free. It's called I'm Here, and while it only lasts for 30 minutes, you'll probably be thinking about it for a long time. Specifically, this question will likely follow you: "How much of yourself do you have to give away in order to be with someone else?"

I'm Here is a look at the figurative and literal answers to that question, as imagined by director Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are, Adapation, and too many amazing music videos to list here). Like most things he does, it's not easily defined. For one, it's technically a short, but it doesn't feel truncated—it's the perfect amount of time to tell the story, which concerns two robots falling in love. This romance is anything but robotic, however—while the robots heads resemble little more than an old Macintosh Plus, they feel more human than any movie robots I've ever encountered. His tricks for giving expression to them are subtle and effective, and too good to spoil here, but suffice to say that I'm Here accomplishes in half and hour (and at a fraction of the cost) what Avatar's budget in the hundreds of millions and 162-minute run time could not: a realistic and believable human love story, without humans.

Another odd bit of backstory to I'm Here is that the film is a "collaboration" between Jonze and Absolut Vodka. In other words, the liquor company footed the bill. Happily, there are no product placements of any kind in the film (at least not that I could notice). In fact its hard to come up with why they invested so much in it, but thank God they did.

There are several delightful trademark Spike Jonze moments of quirk and cleverness peppered throughout, including what is one of the most charming sex scenes ever witnessed. (Yes, charming.) And in another of Jonze's little tricks, the film may be free to watch online but only screens every two hours. You'll have to wait outside the "movie theater" for the next showing. It's worth whatever the wait may be.

I'm Here, Directed by Spike Jonze
Showing online at www.imheremovie.com

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/03/beyond-avatar-a-human-love-story-without-humans/38006/