The Artifice Girl
Humanity’s relationship with technology has been at the heart of science fiction for decades, with Blade Runner, I, Robot, and Ex Machina being just some of the genre outings that have tackled this subject in some form. The latest venture into this realm of man and machine is Franklin Ritch’s The Artifice Girl. Exploring the murky and morally grey areas surrounding artificial intelligence with philosophical depth and keen observation, Ritch’s sharply written handling of the topics raised is a timely meditation on our possible future with technology.
The plot kicks off with special effects technician Gareth (Ritch) being taken in for questioning by special investigators Deena (Sidna Nichols) and Amos (David Girard). They’ve found some photos of a young girl on his hard drive and believe that Gareth preys on children online. However, a series of quickfire revelations unveil that the investigators’ suspicions couldn’t be further from the truth. The girl doesn’t exist; she’s a highly advanced AI named Cherry (Tatum Matthews) that Gareth built to catch predators. The investigators are amazed by what the technician has created and recruit him and Cherry to help their cause.
From here, Ritch dives headfirst into a series of grand philosophical quandaries, as the trio face difficult ethical questions throughout the decades that follow. The director’s eloquence in navigating these issues within such a small scale is impressive. Much of the film takes place within one room with the same ensemble of characters just talking to each other. The actors’ performances are solid, and Ritch deploys sly doses of humour to bring a touch of levity to the deadly serious themes at hand.
However, while the filmmaker raises fascinating ideas surrounding technology through each of the in-depth conversations, watching this film is like sitting through an extended philosophy lecture. The constant discussions on concepts like machine learning and autonomy start to become tedious towards the second half.
There’s little in the way of action, thrills, or even conventional plot in this sci-fi flick. Rather, Ritch takes a believable hypothetical scenario and condenses it into a minimalistic setting before building and expanding upon each point raised. Though The Artifice Girl isn’t for everyone, it nevertheless contains one of the more cerebral approaches to the genre in recent years.
The Artifice Girl does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Glasgow Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for The Artifice Girl here: