By Dave B.
World of Tomorrow (2015) is a 17-minute animated short film by Don Hertzfeldt. In it, 4-year-old Emily is contacted by a clone of herself from 227 years in the future. This clone has been implanted with Emily’s memories (as is commonplace in the future, at least for those who are relatively well-off), so is basically future Emily. Future Emily then brings toddler Emily into the future and begins to tell her about what life is like there, including how she fell in love with a rock.
Explaining World of Tomorrow is difficult, and I find critiquing it to be even more so. It doesn’t have much of a plot, but it has a clear purpose. The film describes a future in which life has become untethered from reality. And that future is pretty damn sad. World of Tomorrow critiques our increasingly virtual society and finds it wanting on many levels, particularly where acquiring new experiences is concerned. In the future that Hertzfeldt crafts, the most common form of entertainment is for people to view the memories of the deceased, instead of making memories of their own. From an existential perspective, World of Tomorrow is insightful, with an extraordinary amount of depth crammed into less than 20 minutes. All other considerations aside, that’s a noteworthy accomplishment.
But what makes the film great (instead of merely good) is the fact that it presents it’s existential musings in such clever, funny forms. World of Tomorrow could have come off as only a depressing foretelling of a shallow dystopian future. Instead, the movie generates compassion for our two-dimensional future selves by firmly intertwining the morbid with the absurd and the tragic with hilarity, creating metaphorical parallels that are at least as interesting as the movie’s societal insights. Consider: future clone Emily’s audience for all these details of the future is her original self, a toddler who can barely frame a coherent sentences or walk in a straight line.
Honestly, I don’t know how to rate World of Tomorrow. It’s brilliant, unique, funny, moving…and less than 20 minutes long. The internal debate that I’m having is if it’s easier or more difficult to make a great short film than it is to make a great feature length one. Fundamentally, I suppose it doesn’t matter. I recommend this film as highly as I can. You’ll have to find it online, as it isn’t playing for free on any of the major streaming services. But I can guarantee you that watching this movie is worth the small amount of extra effort required to find it. Despite the occasionally…sparse (yet also startlingly vivid) animation, this is one of the best films you’ll see this year.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.