Navigating love and passion can be difficult, especially when the girl of your dreams is a thousand miles away in Mexico City. IRL (shorthand for “In Real Life”) explores love in the digital age as Ian (Chase Hinton) and Sofia (Johanna Sol) seek to take their 97% matching on a dating app to the next level. Taking style notes from Before Sunrise, Woody Allen, and even a little Birdman, IRL delivers a modern romance through the touch of a smartphone. Philosophy, religion, feminism, and childhood trauma are all topics of interest as IRL dives into the complexities of love in the 21st century.
Ian is a struggling artist living through dating apps as each profile and date seem to bleed into the next. As Ian’s despair grows in his search for “the one,” his hope is restored as he begins chatting with Sofia, a computer analyst who is taking care of her mother in Mexico City. The chemistry is instantaneous as they banter about failed relationships, the awkward nature of online dating, and finding love within their first conversation.
Over time, a relationship blossoms as phone calls grow longer and passions stronger. Ian can finally express his innermost thoughts to another and feels them reciprocated for the first time. Sofia becomes Ian’s muse as his art progresses from “derivative” to packed with emotion and zealous passion. The once jaded Ian is finally at peace with Sofia’s love – that is, until love without contact begins to pose its own unforeseen problems.
“…Ian is finally at peace with Sofia’s love…until love without contact begins to pose its own unforeseen problems.”
IRL, in concept, is a simple story of love online. However, it is in that simplicity that writer and actor Chase Hinton tells an increasingly nuanced story about longing, lust, and authentic connections in a digital era. Hinton and director Ricardo Perez-Selsky use a drum-laced soundtrack to add tension and a heartbeat to every line of dialogue. When Ian and Sofia discuss philosophy, art, and religion, or when they fight, those drums accent every bit of rhythm and inflection in the words spoken. This marriage of soundtrack and speaking make every conversation an event as Hinton and Sol explore their characters through the art of discourse.
I’m personally a huge fan of great dialogue in film, so every moment of flirtatious verbal sparring and musings on the world was pure poetry. Between the dialogue and cinematography on display, IRL feels very personal and entices the viewers to explore this new romance along with our characters. Hinton essentially has a cellphone as his screen partner yet conveys such chemistry with Sol. Sol using only her voice, gives depth and mystery to Sofia.
The film does struggle to get moving in the first act and has some brushes with clichés at the start. Despite any shortcomings, IRL delivers a very fulfilling third act and a beautifully unexpected ending in its climax. I highly recommend this to fans of technology-fueled romances or fans of the Before Trilogy.
"…tells an increasingly nuanced story about longing, lust, and authentic connections in a digital era."