'Dopamine' gives a realistic high

"Dopamine" Three Stars Rated: R; Running Time: 79 Minutes Starring John Livingston and Sabrina Llyod Directed by Mark Decena Release Date: Oct. 10

Rand is a skeptic. Alzheimer's has claimed the once intoxicating love his parents shared. His father's despair transforms to a renunciation of love as a feeling. This belief in the purely hormonal nature of love overtakes Rand's thoughts and relationships in "Dopamine."

He projects his sympathy for his father's loss into his work as a computer programmer, creating an artificial-intelligence pet named Koy Koy. The financial backers of Rand's project require him and his team to test Koy Koy in an elementary school.

This brings him in touch with Sarah, an emotionally driven kindergarten teacher seeking to fill a void in her life. Needless to say, certain chemical reactions between the two produce a relationship and set the stage for the film's exploration of love.

Rand's skepticism often clashes with Sarah's searching heart to produce the exploratory dialogue. In the sequence leading to the first kiss, Sarah asks, "Do you have that gushy feeling inside?" Rand proceeds to seduce Sarah by describing the hormones - primarily testosterone and dopamine - mobilizing his body. Oddly enough, the seduction works. But, mid-make out Sarah asks Rand if what they are doing is really only hormonal. His inability to answer creates a rift which the two remain in for most of the film.

Sarah retreats into painting; Rand into programming. The intensity in which they retreat seems false to both of their characters, however. It seems designed to make the romance feel more intense than the plot might let on.

Aside from the odd feeling produced by Sarah and Rand's pseudo-intensity, their relationship succeeds at feeling genuine. The way Rand helps Sarah cope with the void in her life is simple and well-done. In the end they both have an influence on each other. Sarah sums up love by saying that even if love is just all hormones designed to draw humans together, whoever created it must've know what love felt like, and that should be enough.

Rand, after a poignant scene speaking to his catatonic mother, takes a chance on these equivocal words and gives his heart, and hormones, to Sarah.

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