Directed by Spike Jonze, USA, 2010, 32 minutes
The film begins with Sheldon, a young robot voiced by actor Andrew Garfield, on a bus. We see what he sees: a robot doing road construction, robot fixing a car--blue collar jobs--and a car accident. Sheldon leans into the window, visibly concerned about the fragmented robot lying like roadkill in the middle of the cross walk, a mangled car offset, and an officer calling it in, tripping over robot fragments. Immediately the viewer is thrust into the world of the coexisting struggle between robot and human, yet is it really that different? At 3:33 an older woman yells from a bus stop at a female robot in her car, "You can't drive a car. You're not supposed to." The muscling continues when the young, female robot Francesca cranks up her music (Sleigh Bells) and drives off. The next day, Francesca returns to the same bus stop with her friends, robots and human, where Sheldon is waiting. From there, it's a story of boy meets girl. It takes an unusual turn when Francesca and Sheldon go to a concert and Francesca loses her arm in a mosh pit, which Sheldon then replaces with his own. Their courtship continues, as do Francesca's mishaps, escalating to a point where Sheldon must make the ultimate sacrifice lying on an operating table next to Francesca.
Narrative, simply put, is the telling of a story with the use of characterization, time, place, and setting. Important to narrative is the subtext. In the case of, I'm Here the protagonists are robots. Nothing appears untimely-- their are no flying cars or busses. Pop culture references like Francesca listening to, Sleigh Bells, a fairly recent band indicate that it's the present. In, Sheldon we have a sort of longing for excitement, things are happening around him, not to him. Francesca represents an attitude of anti- establishment, she's driving a car, listening to loud music, carefree and living in the moment. The attraction is natural, which is part of the stirring of the plot: boy meets girl who is everything that he isn't, boy is willing to give up everything for said girl. While the plot is cliche, the originality of Jonze's vision is not--a world where humans and robots coexist. Jonze shows us that there are few differences between being a robot and human in the real world: you get hit by a car-- you get hurt, when we sleep-- we recharge, which was rather entertaining and only increased my ability to empathize with these characters. I liked that in this particular telling of boy meets girl that the stakes were much higher--I've never had to sacrifice a limb for a lover, but the subtext is there: sometimes love requires us to give up everything for that other person.
It's not that this is an important story to tell, but it's relevance outweighs its importance. Jonze made the mundane entertaining, lacing his story with juxtaposition, high stakes, good music, and visual art-- I'm thinking of the intimate scene at the end when they're both lying on hospital beds next to each other and we have sparks spitting at the screen, blurred imagery, and the sound of grinding and the sudden, "Reboot!" from the operating physician. I think that this could work as a feature length film, but here it works perfectly as a short film. Particularly as a piece of narrative filmmaking or fiction. The film is significant for its vision-- Jonze has set himself apart as a visionary. He spins the cliche into experiment, walking a fine line between reality and surreality, yet maintaining the audiences ability to connect with the protagonists, robot or human. I think that it serves the short film industry to have visionaries like Jonze contributing to the narrative.