Don’t wait for me to tell you why. Schlep your laptop to a quiet room, ask your roommate or spouse to keep out of your hair for a half-hour, and watch Spike Jonze’s new short film I’m Here. Then come back and we’ll discuss.
I think it’s a brilliant, sad little movie. On the surface it’s, as the website declares, a love story. But it’s also a story about deterioration and decay. The bittersweetness of the ending comes from the realisation that Sheldon must be aware that his sacrifice is futile – that the accident-prone Francesca isn’t going to have any more luck with her new body than she had with her old one.
What is going on with Francesca, anyway? We see her carelessly fall down early in the film, but every one of her subsequent accidents occurs offscreen. Presumably her arm was knocked off by careless humans in that mild-looking mosh pit. But when she subsequently loses a leg, and then has her torso horribly crushed, Sheldon never asks how it happened. The implication is that these injuries are inevitable – that once you give up the lonely, sheltered life that Sheldon was leading, once you start engaging fully, like Francesca, with the big scary world of imagination and creation, your destruction is pre-ordained.
I don’t think that’s true; there’s a current of artistic preciousness to Jonze’s story that irritates me slightly. I don’t see the world as a harsh place where fragile free spirits are torn apart when they dare to spread their beautiful butterfly wings. Why can’t Sheldon sit Francesca down and say, Listen, you crazy bitch, I love you and all, but I’ve got a limited supply of spare parts – go easy, for chrissake? Why can’t robots throw awesome parties and build things out of papier-maché while still exercising a bit of common sense? Do passion and practicality have to be mutually exclusive?
These are the quibbles, mind you, of someone who adored the movie. On a side note, kudos to Absolut Vodka for funding Jonze’s little experiment. It was a ballsy move, and I pray that other corporate sponsors will be as forward-looking when filmmakers drop by their headquarters with kooky and dubious ideas.