Chicago – Editor’s Note: This review was originally published as part of our sundance film festival 2022 cover on January 26, 2022. It was reposted in light of the film’s debut on HBO and HBO Max on July 27.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us all to turn to the internet to find community (largely through Zoom and/or more traditional social media), VRChat offers a more immersive and creative experience: users of the online virtual world platform can create their own avatars and worlds, allowing them to imagine a digital self with endless possibilities. Want to look like a busty catgirl? Have it. A spiky-haired anime character with rippling muscles? More power for you. Kermit the frog? You do, boo.
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But the heartwarming key to Joe Hunting’s inviting and humanistic documentary “We Met in Virtual Reality” is the complete lack of condescension it shows towards its subjects. By following a number of communities in VRChat, including several couples who have met on the platform and are now engaging in long-distance relationships, Hunting focuses on the freedom these kaleidoscopic virtual worlds lend to their inhabitants. We see neurodivergent people seeking the comfort of community, queer people using the freedom of their avatars to explore their true selves, women exploring their sexual freedom in the anonymity of the digital space, and more.
“We Met in Virtual Reality”: virtual settings, real connections
Photograph courtesy of HBO
Nestled in these manufactured worlds, Hunting’s subjects have found a place of their own – to fall in love, to explore, to spend a few hours and leave the hardships of the working day behind them in a place they never will. not. to be judged. Yes, there are laughs to be had at the sight of glitchy avatars of increasing levels of ridiculousness talking to each other in fantasy environments or the wonky physics of VR pool games.
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But the sound of tears held back in someone’s voice as they walk down a virtual aisle to marry their beloved, or the sight of a deaf user waving goodbye to a sibling who committed suicide before sending his soul to rest in a virtual lantern ceremony – these moments tell a very different story. As virtual as the place may be, the love and the bonds that form there are as human as they come.
Rated TV-MA. 91 minutes. Documentary. Dir: Joe Hunting. “We Met in Virtual Reality” debuts on HBO and HBO Max on July 27.
About the writer: Clint Worthington is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association. He is the founder and editor of The Spool, and senior editor at Consequence. You can find his other work on Vulture, Nerdist, RogerEbert.com and elsewhere.
Make it double duty with “Jupiter’s Ascendancy,” free streaming on Tubi
Jupiter’s Ascendancy (2015): Like many of the Wachowskis‘ Publish-“Matrix” release, “Jupiter Ascending” is the kind of gonzo swing that’s definitely not for everyone. But once you get into the surprisingly serious tone of this sci-fi fairy tale romance, it has plenty of fun to offer. Rated PG-13. 127 minutes. Real: The Wachowskis. With: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne.
How to watch “We Met in Virtual Reality”
“We Met in Virtual Reality” airs on HBO on July 27 at 9 p.m. ET. It will also be available to stream via HBO Max.
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