From the absurdist humor of "Rejected" to the bittersweet melancholy of "It's Such a Beautiful Day," animator Don Hertzfeldt has made a career of combining minimalist, almost crude drawings with big ideas that tilt toward the existential.
His latest film, "World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden of Other People's Thoughts," is Hertzfeldt's follow-up to his original Oscar-nominated short masterpiece (if you need to catch up, that first episode is currently available on Netflix), set in a distant future where humans have achieved immortality through cloning.
The story begins as the first film's sweetly oblivious heroine, a little girl named Emily Prime (voiced by Hertzfeldt's niece, Winona Mae) is once again visited by one of her adult clones from the future. This time, the unexpected guest is Emily 6 (Julia Pott) who it turns out is an incomplete backup copy of a third generation clone, and needs Emily Prime's memories to make her whole. The new film presents Hertzfeldt with the opportunity to further explore the complex, strange universe he's created, as Emily Prime is led on a tour through the bizarre, lonely existence of a clone and witnesses what's to become of humanity in the generations to come.
For a film consisting solely of stick figures wandering through abstract digital environments, "World of Tomorrow Episode Two" achieves a prolonged silliness, punctuated with moments of profound and sometimes devastating insights about the nature of identity, memory, and consciousness. The effect is simultaneously hilarious, deeply sad, oddly touching, and endlessly quotable in a way that only a Don Hertzfeldt film can be.