FEATURE FILM REVIEW
A love story for our times exploring happiness, loneliness, and heartbreak in the modern dating world.
THEY ALWAYS TELL you that there are plenty of fish in the sea - but what they don't tell you is that most are another species. They aren't meant for you, they're destined to be with someone else. We're all different, and sometimes finding a like-minded person can be difficult. Compatibility is the holy grail of dating, and countless companies and their apps/web sites have stepped in attempting to crack the mystery of compatibility. With varying successes.
Enter Ian (Chase Hinton) into the ridiculously large ocean of potential future girlfriends, or possibly wives. He's a full-time artist and part-time graphic designer. Graphic design pays the bills, but Ian isn't digging it. What he wants is a partner, someone to share himself with. His roommate seems to have no issues finding women, so why does he? His online dating habits don't seem to be helping much. Lots of warm bodies, but nobody he's connecting with. When he finally comes across Sophia (voiced by Johanna Sol) Ian believes his luck has changed. Finally, someone he immediately connects with.
CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RELIGION, FAMILY, AND ART PLAY A HUGE ROLE GETTING IAN AND SOPHIA CLOSER
Sophia and Ian begin chatting on the phone, and she admits she was about to delete her profile because nobody seemed to be clicking with her. It was Ian's amazing message that hooked her and now she understands why. The two just seem to work. They're comfortable with each other and what's even more amazing is that their connection was almost instant. How often does that happen?
Religion, family, and art all seem to be important topics as the two love birds get to know more and more about each other. But as you may have guessed, eventually something strange begins happening. Ian notices that Sophia doesn't seem to want to take their relationship to the next level. She doesn't seem to want him to see her. At first, her absence makes sense. Her mother is very ill and awaiting surgery far, far away. She says she'll be out of town for a month and Ian is willing to wait. But why won't she video chat with him? Her excuse is that it's really expensive, but it just doesn't sit right with Ian. Could she be lying about who she is?
WHEN HE'S TALKING WITH HER HE IS NOT LONELY, SHE IS NOT LONELY, IT'S ALL SO CLEAR
The escapades continue as Ian gives Sophia the benefit of the doubt - as his suspicions continue to mount. From her photos, Sophia is a beautiful woman. Probably way out of Ian's league... but talking to her has resulted in a seemingly near-perfect relationship. When he's talking with her he's not lonely, she's not lonely, it's all so clear. Until he thinks again why she might be avoiding him seeing her. Is something wrong with her physically? Through various online efforts, he can't seem to find anything to prove she's not who she says she is. But something is not right.
Ian's insecurities also play a part in a scene involving his family. His father Jonathan (Eric Roberts) feels his son is a loser, and blames him for his own shattered dreams. We learn about Ian's father much earlier, and the abuses Ian suffered. But this scene really showcases Ian's family and is a powerful scene. It explains a lot about our protagonist and is a nice little addition to a film that contains more than its share of Ian on his phone. But it leaves us back to square one, is Sophia who she claims to be?
IT MAY BE A MODERN DAY DATING STORY, BUT THE IMPLICATIONS STRETCH FAR BEYOND
IRL plays with some very sober topics when it comes to dating and to a point love. The big question is how much physical interaction actually matters? Is it possible to fall in love with a voice? I personally believe it is, to some extent, but sooner or later something has to give. Unless the relationship you are looking to build is one of friendship, a time has to come when a physical presence is needed. At least I think so. But just how far can a relationship actually go before physicalities are necessary? The underlying question asks for some hard truths about the internet itself, and dating apps in particular.
This film may be a modern-day dating story, but the implications stretch far beyond that. Implications and theories aside, when it comes to the enjoyability of this production, I have very little negative to write. IRL was a good movie that asks some hard questions in an entertaining way. It's not exactly what you think it is, and I give four stars to the filmmakers and their talented cast.
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