Amazon’s personalization so is scary precise, they practically ship the books
before you order them. Still, the impact is limited and arguably mostly
positive. However, online personalization could have more profound implications
in a more immersive digital setting. Such is the case when an unhappily married
mother meets her seemingly perfect match online. The question whether he is
real or not becomes a consuming obsession in Grace Rowe’s short film The Sweetening (trailer here), which screens during the
2016 Third Culture Korean American Film Festival New York.
lives in a post-Catfish world. The
neglected mother of two agreed to beta-test a prospective virtual community just
to pass the time. She understands online avatars are often very different from
the flesh and blood people they represent. However, there is something about
tall, dark Jack (or Daniel as he later calls himself) that really gets to her. After
all, he is perfect for her, which is presumably why they were brought together,
but that does not necessarily mean he is real.
films have addressed issues of digital identity and reality, but few have
focused so relentlessly on the emotional repercussions. As screenwriter and
lead actress, Rowe takes Sadie down a dark psychological path that some viewers
might have trouble following. Yet, it gives the film unusual bite and some
genuinely tragic heft. Reportedly, Rowe is developing Sweetening as a potential series, which could be truly fascinating
television, if it picks up where the short film concludes.
Sweetening is a remarkably
accomplished showcase for Rowe’s talents on both sides of the camera. She also
generates some real heat with Matt Houston as the mystery man/avatar. Like the
under-appreciated Advantageous, it
represents the sort of sensitive, relationship-driven speculative fiction that
is often drowned-out and over-shadowed by more special effects-dominated fare.
Recommended for mature audiences, The
Sweetening screens as part of a free shorts program at KAFFNY this coming Saturday (10/15), at the
Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Readers can also get 15% off other tickets at the fest using the snappy promo code "jbspins15."
Labels: KAFFNY '16, Short Films, Virtual Reality films