I won’t go too much into spoilers, actually, because it’s not very long–less than an hour–so it’s worth watching if you have some time to kill.
Hal is, to obfuscate a bit, the story of a therapist who is attempting to help his client by enlisting the help of a robot to play the role of his client’s lost lover, as a means of therapy. I can’t say much more without getting into plot territory and its accompanying spoilers, so I’ll just talk about the meta aspects.
Hal has that ethereal quality that shows up when these kinds of films are trying to be deep and symbolic, and as per usual it works very well, especially considering the story. Japanese films of this style, I’ve noticed (I couldn’t find any information about the director so I’m generalizing), tend to montage pretty much all of the time, a series of interconnected vignette-like scenes strung together like pearls. This makes Hal into a charming story about love and loss and even identity, but it does stumble a little. There is some early misdirection that ends up feeling a little too contrived, which makes sense to the characters’ intent but comes across as a bit jarring. It’s also a little shallow on the backstory of the world and our characters, so another half an hour of expository scenery wouldn’t have been amiss.
Still, it’s well-animated and meaningful, and though it suffers a bit from its short length, what it manages to accomplish is downright heartwarming. It should be available for free for the next few hours at Funimation’s website, and the dub is excellent. Give it a look. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.