I recently found out about 2017 film, Marjorie Prime, a story regarding human relationships, memory and holograms. It features Lois Smith (Marjorie), John Hamm (Walter) , Timothy Robbins (John) , and Geena Davis (Tess). Most of you would likely be least familiar with Lois Smith. She’s had a nearly 70 year career, mostly as a stage actress (and was in the play version of Marjorie Prime). She had a relatively small but well received role as the scared and frenetic barmaid in the film East of Eden (mostly known, deservedly so, for James Dean’s performance). Her next significant role was in Five Easy Pieces as Partita Dupea (Jack Nicholson’s character’s sister). Between those she had some interesting television guest spots on Route 66. After this period she mostly continued on stage but had some small film and television roles. So, this may be her most significant role in almost 50 years.
The film is mostly about memory (Majorie is losing hers at 85) and how differing memories of significant events affect our relationships. It is set about 50 years in the future (this is never blatantly stated, but from the relative ages of Marjorie in the film’s “present” and her age in flashbacks that are supposed to be 1997 or so, we can guess the film takes place in the 2050’s). There are almost no manifestations of the future other than holograms that people use to simulate dead loved ones. These holograms can learn (there’s some sort of computer technology behind this, but its never discussed), and its clear that some folks like to train the holograms to have differing memories of events than maybe what actually occurred. In the end, we’re left only with the holograms trading stories involving their distorted memories (the owners died off one by one).
Its a good story regarding manipulation of technology and how that affects relationships, and in that way it strong resembles the series Black Mirror which focuses on similar stories. Its particularly interesting because in crude form, we could probably do something like this now. So, I could see a world in 50 years that builds on this to the point of high resolution life-like holograms of our deceased loved ones. But I wonder if in this world (its not discussed in the film) you can simulate anybody. Can you have a simulated relationship with someone who has rejected you (to be sure, these are definitely just projections, so attempts at holographic sex or anything like that might not be very satisfying)? I don’t know if there’s really room for a sequel, but perhaps someone can explore these ideas in a related book.
So, whether you are a fan of any of these actors or just would like to see more “soft” sci fi (sorry folks, no space ships or lasers!), take a look at Marjorie Prime. It’s available streaming via Amazon.
If you’d like to read more about such issues in science fiction, read The Physics and Astronomy of Science Fiction, by Steve Bloom (me) and available from Amazon, B&N, and the publisher, McFarland. Its is available in electronic and paperback.