Spike Jonze's new film premieres as part of 'Shorts Program I' at Sundance

Another technical knock-out from one of film's slyest pranksters

<p>A robot looking for love is the subject of the Spike Jonze short film 'I'm Here,' one of the films playing as part of 'Shorts Program I' at this year's Sundance Film Festival</p>

A robot looking for love is the subject of the Spike Jonze short film 'I'm Here,' one of the films playing as part of 'Shorts Program I' at this year's Sundance Film Festival

After "HOWL," I had to hurry across Park City from the Eccles Theater so I could make it to the Egyptian in time for the Shorts Program I.  Dan Fienberg already reviewed the majority of the films from that program tonight, but the one he left out is the one I was there to see, the new short film from director Spike Jonze.

There have been rumors about this one floating around for a while now, and there was some confusion on my part when the Kanye West short by Spike showed up.  I thought at first maybe that was the same one.  But it turns out "I'm Here" is an ambitious half-hour love story about robots starring Andrew Garfield and Sienna Guillory, and it kicked off the Shorts Program with style, ambition, and a gentle romantic touch.

As with the Wild Things in "Where The Wild Things Are," the robots here are a combination of practical costumes and digital post-production, and the end result is sort of magical.  Both robots come across as living things, and the low-tech design of the world is charming, giving it a handmade quality that really works.

The fim is unabashedly romantic, the story of library robot Sheldon (Garfield), shy and retiring, following every rule.  There's a sense from the way the film plays at first that robots are not valued members of society, and that Sheldon has accepted his place.  He's amazed by robots who don't just keep their head down.  

In particular, there's a girl robot he sees one day driving a car, a definite taboo, who intrigues him.  Eventually, he meets her and learns that Francesca (Guillory) doesn't live by any of the rules that he's always taken as absolutes, and so he finds himself drawn into her orbit, hurrying through each work day, finally with something to look forward to.

The film is all gentle whimsy for the first half, but eventually, there's a sadness that sets in, and the film becomes a story of sacrifice, a question of just how far you'll go for the one you love.  It is a question that is on my mind almost continually these days... just how much do you sacrifice for someone?  At what point is it enough?  Is it ever enough?  Is that the point of love?  When you choose to spend your life with someone, do you choose to set your own interests and feelings at second place forever?  There's no rule book we're given, so I think a lot of art comes from people wrestling with these feelings and ideas in their own lives, setting up scenarios and playing them out as a way of trying to process their own responses.

The Kanye West short felt like a one-off, a charming goof, but "I'm Here" feels like a legitimate entry in Spike's filmography.  Both technically and emotionally adept, this just made me eager for him to make anothe feature, and I hope this time, it doesn't take him seven years.  We need his voice in the mainstream, and if you get the chance, you absolutely have to check out this latest effort.

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