Joe Hunting’s “We Met in Virtual Reality” is the rare documentary shot entirely within an online world. It surveys the sort of space — specifically, a platform called VRChat — where people hang out “in person” as avatars of their choice. It’s a place of acceptance and social ease, and while it might not look as mind-bending as the fantasy realms portrayed in science fiction, it’s clearly no less liberating.
Cannily conceived as an observational documentary, the movie tags along with a few regulars and also tracks a couple of relationships. The activities include chatting at a bar, learning belly-dancing or sign language in a class, going on a dinosaur safari, and vibing to music at a club. Despite the virtual setting, the locals lean into bodily endeavors, as well as special occasions that foster community, like a birthday or a wedding.
The avatars tend to have anime-character physiques, lovingly (and sometimes bodaciously) self-fashioned. The animated landscape can be mildly trippy in its lo-fi glitchiness, and amusing: At one point the point-of-view pans to reveal that a voice we’re hearing comes from a Kermit the Frog look-alike.
The prevailing mood is sweet and affectionately dorky. But again and again we hear how life-changing VR can be, creating a sanctuary for recovery (from depression, alcoholism, grief) and acceptance (for nonbinary visitors, for example, and for people of all abilities).
Hunting’s documentary catches up with where many people are finding their dreams realized, and understands that sometimes the dream is simply to be yourself.
We Met in Virtual Reality
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes. Watch on HBO Max.