DOPAMINE deserved the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation prize for outstanding independent films featuring science and technology at the Sundance Film Festival. Taking many years to produce with the help of the Sundance Channel, this movie is beautifully executed. The camera work is exceptional, even though it was shot in video. The music is even better, and the writing is nuanced, layered and compelling.
It tells the story of a shy, young computer programmer named Rand who, with his friends Johnson and Winston, have been hired by a Japanese company to design an interactive artificially intelligent being in an animated computer environment. They call this creature Koy Koy. Just when they think they’re going to get paid, the Japanese businessman says he wants them to test it out in a preschool.
Rand is immediately taken with the teacher, Sarah. Being hyper-scientific, Rand thinks that all attraction is attributable to physiological causes, such as dopamine, which is the hormone released when people become aroused. Sara, on the other hand, is a painter and thinks there’s more to love than a chemical reaction of pheromones and dopamine.
In a subtle show not tell way, the movie resolves this contemporary argument. In the process there are some moral statements made, and Sarah reveals she had to give up a child for adoption and presents a strong pro-life perspective. Sarah eventually notes perhaps it has something to do with chemistry but whoever planned it that way must have known what love is like. In other words, there had to be a designer, which is exactly what Rand is with regard to Koy Koy.
Regrettably, however, the movie has elements that will limit its audience and discourage moral moviegoers. The worst is probably the foul language, with the “f” word used frequently by Winston, the cad in the group. The second is that Winston takes advantage of Sarah when they first meet her and starts to fornicate with her. When he asks to break off to go to the bathroom, she leaves depressed and disgusted. This becomes a moral point later in the movie, but it could have been done a little more tastefully. Also, audiences should know there’s a lot of talk about Darwinism, evolution, and chemistry, making one think in the beginning that this movie is going in the wrong direction. Finally, there are two sexual diagrams of internal sexual organs and a film of an elephant mating which Rand watches while trying to design a partner for Koy Koy.
On the other hand, this is a very compelling movie, which argues some important questions in a dramatic visual way. Ultimately, the movie is uplifting and encouraging, although it stops short of being redemptive. The filmmakers deserve praise, but MOVIEGUIDE® urges audiences to exercise extreme caution.
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SUMMARY: DOPAMINE tells the story of a shy, hyper-scientific computer programmer named Rand who becomes attracted to a preschool teacher who thinks there’s more to love than just a chemical reaction. DOPAMINE is a very compelling movie, which argues some important questions in a dramatic, visual way, but it contains rough foul language and sexual content and stops short of being redemptive.
(PaPa, B, EvEv, LLL, S, A, DD, M) Subtle moral premise set in a pagan worldview with a large amount of naturalistic evolutionary dogma; 31 mostly strong obscenities and seven profanities; no violence; interrupted fornication scene, nothing licentious shown and kissing, and discussions of sex; no nudity; alcohol; smoking, drugs and drug dealing; and, arrogance and one chauvinistic character.