• Damian Masterson

Love & Loneliness: A.I. at 20

Something I have found helpful to remember is that there are important differences between loneliness and solitude. While these two feelings can overlap in a person in a given moment, it’s generally one or the other that is primarily felt at a time. Both feelings are characterized by either being alone or standing apart from others, but an important distinction is that, while loneliness is generally undesirable and painful, solitude is typically welcome and sought after. One might choose solitude to be able to think without distraction or to be able to enjoy something like a walk or a book with complete focus, or simply, for a break from everything that comes from being around others. Solitude, in moderation, is generally healthy and needed. What distinguishes loneliness from solitude is that loneliness is not something that one generally chooses. It requires others, specifically a feeling of unwelcome separation from others, to make feelings of loneliness salient; and it often, though not always, takes love and acceptance from others for feelings of loneliness to dissipate.

I raise these larger, hopefully universal, points about the interplay of feelings of love, loneliness, and solitude as entry to challenge a particular bit of conventional wisdom about Steven Spielberg’s 2001 film, A.I. Artificial Intelligence - specifically that the ending of the film in some way ruins or undermines the story. When A.I. was released twenty years ago, and in the intervening years, it has been criticized for an ending that has been called too long, too saccharine or too much of a departure from the story that preceded it. In my view, it’s actually the ending, exactly as it is, that makes the film among the very best storytelling that Steven Spielberg has ever done.

A.I. is genuinely my favorite Spielberg film. It’s the film of his that I’ve seen t