This VR film pushes the boundaries of both virtual reality and animation.
It was a night just like any other night. I finished work for the day and closed my laptop. I had dinner and after an hour, I put on my Oculus Quest headset in order to begin my VR workout.
However, I noticed the home screen was different. An app I had never seen before was in my library and I realized it was the free VR film I had downloaded the night before. Most reviews said the film ran for just 10 minutes, so I thought, What the hell? Let’s watch this film first. I thought it would be a nice mellow warm-up before an intense session of Thrill of the Fight, but in just a few minutes the film had me in tears and sobbing like a child. Dear Angelica, congratulations. You are the first VR experience that has ever made me cry.
What’s it about?
Dear Angelica is a 3DoF virtual reality animated film about a mother and daughter. The Oculus Store describes it as:
“A journey through the magical and dreamlike ways we remember our loved ones. Entirely painted by hand inside of VR, Dear Angelica plays out in a series of memories that unfold around you. An immersive, illustrative short story starring Geena Davis and Mae Whitman.”
However, I feel like that small synopsis doesn’t do the film justice. Dear Angelica is a true work of art that shows the power of VR as a storytelling medium. Since the film is only 10 minutes long, I don’t want to spoil the story here. All I will say is that it is about love and longing and the relationship between a parent and a child.
Why did the film hit me so hard?
Dear Angelica is a short and sweet film, which pushes VR animation to new horizons and tries to elicit emotion from an audience that’s used to playing games like Beat Saber or Arizona Sunshine. Safe to say, that is no easy task to pull off in just 10 minutes.
Angelica vs. The Monster
I’ll admit the art style is a bit jarring and even distracting at first. However, if you keep watching and let yourself get used to the environment, you may be taken on a narrative journey like no other before. The narrator tells the story through a letter she’s written to her mother. All the while, scenes from the letter come to life in 360 VR animation. At times, the narrator’s words literally move through you.
I can’t describe Dear Angelica in any other way than “pure art”. The film leads you to turn your head in certain directions and follow animations that coincide with the narrator’s sentiments. In time, those sentiments become your own. For anyone that has ever been away from their family for a long period of time, the narrator’s emotion will hit close to home.
Three years ago, I moved to Tokyo, Japan from the small city of Winnipeg, Canada. While I’m living my best life here, it’s still hard sometimes to be away from friends and family. Because of that, this film brought out feelings I may have kept inside. However, many others have had the same experience.
Dear Angelica user reviews
So far the film has received great reviews on the Oculus Quest Store. 65% of users gave Dear Angelica 5 stars. 15% gave it 4 stars and 12% gave the film 3 stars. Finally, just 8% of viewers didn’t like the film, giving it 2 stars or less.
One user named Sh4dowqueen called it “one of the best storytelling experiences of all time.”
Another user, Brenthas1, even accused someone in her household of cutting onions! However, we all know those tears were not created by syn-propanethial-S-oxide released from onion cutting. Those tears were brought on by the pure emotion in the words of Dear Angelica’s narrator.
For those of you that own an Oculus Quest or an Oculus Rift, I highly recommend giving Dear Angelica a try. The film only lasts 10 minutes, so it isn’t a large commitment.
While I think Dear Angelica is a work of art that anyone can enjoy, I believe that older audiences will enjoy the film more and be able to connect with it on a deeper level. If you do end up downloading Dear Angelica on your Oculus device, be sure you have a box of tissues ready, becauseI don’t think the Oculus warranty covers water damage due to tears.