Loneliness is a deadly pandemic. Modern technology and social media were supposed to provide a cure, but instead, our excessive use and addiction to our phones have left us more disconnected from the real world than ever. Best Friend, animated by Nicholas Olivieri, Shen Yi, Juliana De Lucca, Varun Nair and David Feliu, offers a bleak look at what the future might hold and demonstrates how the very fabric of society is being destroyed by technology. Compelling, imaginative and a real visual delight, the six-min short has taken its place as one of our favourite grad films to come out of French animation school GOBELINS this year (along with Thermostat 6 we featured earlier in 2018).
In the near- future, making friends no longer requires any effort or social skills. Instead, everyone has a device called Best Friend, which once implanted guarantees the perfect virtual friend. The story follows Adam, a lonely man addicted to this device, whose blissful, fabricated life may have accidentally come to an end. The 2D animation manages to be unsettling, thought-provoking and utterly entertaining all at once. It’s a dark tale of a sad future, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are comic highlights which lift the narrative and broaden its appeal.
Best Friend is a beautifully rendered piece of work. The characters – slightly more haggard, worn down versions of ourselves, with deep, dark circles around the eyes, are expressive and bursting with life. A big chunk of the credit is due to the talented voice over artists and sound designers whose work here is superb. Note Adam’s distress, when he is desperately trying to find a machine to charge his device, or Cammie’s sweet yet cold and robotic voice. Or the song for the Best Friend advert – careful thought has gone into every single detail, and buckets of emotion injected into every character’s voice. The result is an auditory masterpiece.
Apart from a few fine strokes of the futuristic brush, the world the animators have painted is not much different from the one we live in, making it unsettlingly close to home. The sci-fi elements appear to be updated versions of what we have in the present, from the ATM machines, to the technology we catch a few glimpses of. Even our addictions remain in this fictional future, but instead of drugs or alcohol people are hopelessly hooked on virtual friendship.
With such believable characters, living in a dark and familiar world, we can’t help but get sucked into the frightening thought that this future awaits us. Best Friend is an intelligently and expertly crafted cautionary tale, one impossible not to delight in.