By P. Patrick Hogan | Sci-Fi
A woman discovers a virtual reality machine to escape her loneliness.

Bixby makes her way through a post-apocalyptic landscape, scavenging for food, water, and other resources. In the course of her wanderings, she discovers a virtual reality machine in an abandoned cabin.

The virtual world is a marked relief from the woman’s own. Lush, peaceful and tropical, it’s a beautiful beach with a gorgeous view of an eternal sunset. And she’s not alone: a man named Nate is there as well, and the woman falls in love with him, despite the bugs in the virtual reality equipment.

But as her food and resources run out, the woman is forced to make a decision: abandon the machine and her lover, or face certain starvation and death.

Richly ambitious, visually sweeping and full of genuine, engaging emotion, this short sci-fi romance — written and directed by P. Patrick Hogan — begins like many post-apocalyptic stories. Through epic wide shots of a stunning but desolate sand-filled world, we see a woman, clad head to toe in protective clothing and goggles, pulling her belongings on a sled behind her. The world has become a wasteland, and human beings are isolated and alone. There isn’t a tremendous amount of backstory or explanation, but with images this striking and distinctive, viewers don’t need much hand-holding to understand how desolate the world is, and what impact it has on its few inhabitants.

So we can see the appeal when Bixby, played with weary presence by actor Katie Savoy, stumbles upon the virtual reality machine and the beautiful paradise it offers her. The real draw, for her and viewers, is the presence of another person to talk to, however virtual. As the woman’s immersion into this realm of VR increases, her attachment to this virtual man grows as well, becoming a full-blown love affair.

Developing this narrative strand of romance offers a lovely juxtaposition to the real world’s aridity and emptiness, and it’s hard not to get caught up and invested emotionally, thanks to the storytelling’s genuine sweetness and the warm, steadfast performance of the woman’s romantic partner by actor WolĂ© Parks. (It also offers opportunities for levity, thanks to the machine’s constant shutting down at inopportune moments.)

Perhaps on its own, this cinematic romance might be “too much,” but for Bixby, it’s emotional sustenance after such isolation. Her emotional attachment grows and begs questions of just how much of a relationship takes place in our heads. But what’s most powerful about the film is that, due to its unabashed emotional fearlessness, such philosophical questions recede as a more pressing dilemma asserts itself. Food and water are running out, and Bixby must move on to survive, leaving virtual Nate behind. The story’s biggest accomplishment is how wrenching we understand this decision is for her, and though Nate isn’t “real,” in the sense of sharing her physical reality, her love and longing for connection is.

Elegantly pared-down and compelling at every turn, “Virtually” ends on a richly moving note, one that underscores its central themes of hope and connection, which might have unexpected resonance in a time when quarantines and self-isolation on a global scale are on our minds. We may be able to survive alone, but we cannot thrive without others. As the woman discovers, our love and connection through others give us hope — and hope is what helps us endure difficulty, and travail, as we fight to get to the next day, and one another.

You Might Also Like:

Feeling Through (Oscars)

By Doug Roland | Drama
A homeless teen meets a deaf-blind man who changes his life forever...

Call Connect

By Josiah Allen and Indianna Bell | Drama
A young helpline operator takes her first call and gets more than she expected.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


By Christophe M. Saber | Comedy
A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse.

The Landing

By Josh Tanner | Sci-Fi
A man uncovers the horrifying truth of what landed on his childhood farm.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying (Sundance)

By Stefanie Abel Horowitz | Drama
A woman thinks about dying. But a co-worker asks her out.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Sci-Fi
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Drama
A father is cut off from his son, then takes matters into his own hands...

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Romance
An elderly man is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Lost and Found (Oscars)

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A clumsy crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.


By Joe Gillette | Romance
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.

Garfield (Sundance)

By Georgi Bank-Davies | Romance
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man works in a food truck, across from a brothel with a girl who needs his help.

Long Branch

By Dane Clark and Linsey Stewart | Romance
A young woman finds a one-night stand. But he lives 2 hours away via public transit.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening. That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.