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Set in 2041, Alex Garel is a well-known robot programmer who after 10 years returns to his home town to work in his old university when his friend Julia brings him a project to create a new line of robot child. There Alex meets his brother David, Lana (Alex's former lover and David's current wife), and Eva, Alex's 10-years-old niece. Looking for inspiration, Alex asks Eva to be the muse of the new robot, watching her attitude and behavior during the time they spend together, making emotional tests to configure its personality. The relationship with his niece gives Alex doubts about finishing the project and awakens old feelings for Lana. At the same time he starts suspecting that perhaps the lovely and imaginative Eva is hiding an important secret about Lana and herself. Written by
In his debut feature film director Kike Maillo went out on a limb when he chose to make a film set in Spain in the not-so-distant- future about the moral dilemmas of artificial intelligence. Spanish sci-fi? Sounds risky but why not? We're getting a new robot-themed film each month now: Chappie, Big Hero 6, Ex-Machina, Age of Ultron, Elysium to name a few of the most recent. So why not a Spanish robot film for a change?
The world "Eva" is set in is indeed intriguing. It is set in an idyllic alpine village so perfect it looks like we're peering inside a souvenir snow globe. People drive around in 1970's SAABs, wear wool sweaters, unwind in pubs with cozy fireplaces and go ice skating every afternoon. The only signs that you are in the future is that there are robots everywhere politely and discretely doing secretarial and house cleaning jobs. There are no drones, no self- driving cars, and no robo-cops (Spain should be optimistic of its future apparently). Robots are either doing menial labor, or, apparently, have been geared towards emotional gratification and the companionship of their creators.
Our protagonist, Alex (Daniel Brühl) is a robotics software developer who is hired to go after the holy grail of robotics: building a prototype of a robot child that is both realistic (that is, spontaneous) as well as safe (that is, predictable). The strength of this film is to show reconciling these two is impossible, and that the essence of being human is precisely that we cannot be both. The secret sauce that makes us human, capable of spontaneity and charm, turns out to be also what makes us irrational, impetuous and dangerous.
After masterfully setting up the premise of the film, the actual execution of the plot starts to falter. The protagonist is supposed to be a genius cybernetic engineer, but his character is mostly a drag and a bore to watch. You start wishing that his robot cat had more screen time. The story also hinges on a love triangle that feels contrived and inane. The robot butler is considerably more entertaining and I ended up wishing he somehow played a bigger part in the plot. The core of the story revolves around how Alex tries to model the emotional life of the android child on his niece (fantastically played by Claudia Vega) and it is these interactions that anchor the film and give it substance. The best scenes deal with the "Turing tests" that Bruno develops, trying to tell apart real child from robot child. The last half hour of the film has some twists which ultimately make the entire film seem better than it felt it was while watching. Still, it is not easy to forgive the director for wasting so much time on love triangle sub-plots and creating hollow characters. The film gets seven stars for its elegant cinematography and its smartly framed premise, but doesn't break much new ground.
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