There's no way around it, the fact that loss and grief are part of life. It's the fear of loss that shapes some of our major life decisions, and actually losing those we love and care about, alter the trajectory of our lives in ways we usually can't even comprehend. But what would happen if you could temper the loss of a loved one? Make it easier, or take the majority of the emotional attachment out of the equation? This is the underlying idea that I believe, is presented in "Ha:Na" from writer, director Isadora Verissimo.
At first glance, Hana seems like a regular, free-spirited woman. A woman who loves life and even has an eye for photography - yet something is a little off. Not quite right. Did Hana suffer some kind of accident? Maybe some form of mental breakdown? As her partner is introduced, we find out that it's him who has suffered a loss, and that Hana is some form of replacement. Only... her function seems more than a little unhealthy - and I use the word function on purpose. Hana is a robot - and her purpose is to replace someone Ezra (Hana's partner) loved. Someone who, what I gathered, has died. Robots replacing loved ones? Perhaps not the newest of narratives but an interesting premise none the less.
The subject matter of this film is difficult, especially for a short film. It's all about psychology and perhaps even morality. Would replacing a loved one with a robot be good in any way? Could it be considered a form of therapy? Or would it make things worse in the long run? Better or worse, should it even be done at all? These are some interesting questions that "Ha:Na" does touch upon, but what makes this story a little different is that it focuses on Hana herself/itself. The help Vs hurt psychological nature is addressed, through the interactions of the two brothers, but this is more about her - Hana's existence. It's about her discovering life with the eyes of a child, so the question seemed clear to me - just what is life? Is it the ability to interact and grow? To enjoy something? Or simply exist to exist? Could a robot become something more given time? "Ha:Na" presents something to think about, some fodder to keep those mental gears turning. Considering this film has a length of only around ten minutes, a lot is accomplished.
Christin Muuli's portrayal of our leading robot was actually done quite well, never over-the-top one way or another. It was a subdued performance. As I kind of hinted at above, almost child-like. Hana came across as both believable and almost tragic, sad. For a leading role with so little actual dialog, this was quite a feat and one Muuli owned. Mix the great performances with some nice camera work and a slick edit, and you end up with a visually excellent short film. Absolutely no complaints.
However, I did find this film a little ambiguous and perhaps even a little unfinished feeling. I'm not going to go into specifics because frankly, this is a spoiler-free review and I believe people should watch and put together their own theories. I'd love to hear some thoughts when this film becomes available to the general public but for me, a few things just felt missing. If that old saying, "Leave them wanting more" were applied to this write-up... well, I'll just leave it at that.
At the end of the day? "Ha:Na" grabs the bull by the horns and tackles some really tough material for a short film. The fact it all comes together so well speaks volumes of the people involved. "Ha:Na" is not only entertaining, but is also quite thought-provoking. A short film that you could easily debate over, or at the very least have some interesting conversations about. A solid, and well earned three out of five stars. Check this one out when you can, you'll be glad you did.