Review: Users


I’m a documentary fan. I love learning and, as long as it is well-substantiated, I love viewing an in-depth, non-fiction perspective on something. However, there are several types of docs and, in my opinion, they are not equally entertaining or informative. So, I don’t know why I chose to watch “Users” except that it came with an excellent promo.

“Users” is a poetic documentary. It is a study on a theme, in this case the growing use of technology in substitution for human or natural interaction. This kind of doc, along with observational documentaries, generally moves slowly. What you can see in three seconds is shown for three minutes – or more. In the case of “Users,” it has accompanying soothing music and intermittent captions/voice-overs.

Some have found “Users” a particularly insightful and beautiful poetic film. Its sparse dialogue, variety of camera options and gorgeous scenes are beautifully presented juxtaposing what used to be with what is now possible with technology.

“Users” begins with a narrator gently and without judgment, saying: “You used to not know what gender your baby was. You used to feed them from your own body and then rock them to sleep.” The visually labored minutes show a baby in an automatic rocker finally falling asleep. The film asks something like this: “What will the effect be on the baby without human contact? Will s/he love the technology, the ocean sounds, the rocking bassinet, the bottle – more than Mom?”

Natalia Almada, recipient of the McArthur Genius Award, won both the 2009 and 2021 Sundance Film Festival Awards for documentary directing for “El General” and “Users.” The latter was noted “as a mesmerizing amalgamation of sight and sound.” As a master of the poetic documentary, her work has been shown at The Museum of Modern Art, The Guggenheim Museum and the 2008 Whitney Biennial in New York City.

In addition, Almada, who graduated with a Master’s in Fine Arts in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, has received Guggenheim, USA Artists, Alpert and MacDowell fellowships. She’s got a stellar resume, so for those who gravitate to meditative, thought-provoking documentaries sans story or characterization, this may the best of the genre in 2023.

“Users” opened June 9, 2023, in NYC and will premiere on the west coast in LA at the Laemmle Glendale Theater on June 16.


Director/Writer: Natalia Almada

Producers: Josh Penn, Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, and Natalia Almada
Executive producers: Sean O’Grady, Bill Stertz, Charlotte Cook, Tony Hsieh, Roberto Grande, Mimi Pham, Kathryn Everett, Bryn Mooser, Noah Kadner, Rune Hansen and Mónica Reina

Co-producers: Daniela Alatorre, and Elivia Shaw
Director of photography: Bennett Cerf
Editing: Natalia Almada
Sound design: David Cerf
Sound mix: Lora Hirschberg, and Alejandro de Icaza
Music: David Cerf (composition) and Kronos Quartet (performance)

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