Rand, Winston, and Johnson have a small tech startup company in the Bay Area that's developing a artificially-lived computer character, Koy Koy the bird, who can hear and see and interact with the user. Koy Koy gets placed in a kids schoolroom for testing, and Rand develops a relationship with one of the teachers, Sarah. Rand learns that his scientific understanding of human mating isn't necessarily a roadmap for the real thing. Written by
Martin Lewison <email@example.com>
Dopamine is the chemical emitted by the brain that creates pleasure when we're in love. So is that all love is? A chemical in our brain that makes us want to procreate? Or is there something more to it, something in our "hearts"?
These are the issues at the center of "Dopamine", a likeable but insubstantial indie comedy/drama from new director Mark Decena.
Set in San Francisco, it's about a computer programmer named Rand (John Livingston), who is working with 2 other guys on an interactive children's program called Koy Koy, named after the cute little digital bird that the kids are supposed to talk to. In shopping the program around, he meets Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd, from TV's great, cancelled "Sports Night"), a complicated kindergarten teacher, and they begin dating.
The relationship is tense because Rand is emotionally withdrawn having not yet fully dealt with his mother's tragic Alzheimer's, and has become convinced that love is nothing but a chemically-induced illusion in our brains (dopamine), after hearing his father's bitter diatribes on the subject.
One of the movie's very good qualities is that it takes time to ponder this issue, whether love is only a chemical reaction or if it's something more. It doesn't offer any concrete answers, but how could it? Also, the acting is mostly very good (particularly by Sabrina Lloyd), and the San Francisco cinematography is excellent and atmospheric.
On the minus side, though, there's just not very much to it. It's working from a unique angle, but otherwise it's pretty much like every other mopey, arsty indie love story. And even at an extremely short 79 minutes, it feels a little padded.
I saw "Dopamine" at a screening where director Mark Decena and executive producer Eric Koivisto spoke afterwards and did a Q & A. They are young, friendly and talented guys, and even though THIS movie is not entirely successful, it's promising and full of potential. I wish them the best.
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