Four tales: a robot baby as a pre-adoption test, a mother and her dying son's toy robot collection, a lonely robot office worker, and a sculptor contemplating robot-enabled immortality.Four tales: a robot baby as a pre-adoption test, a mother and her dying son's toy robot collection, a lonely robot office worker, and a sculptor contemplating robot-enabled immortality.Four tales: a robot baby as a pre-adoption test, a mother and her dying son's toy robot collection, a lonely robot office worker, and a sculptor contemplating robot-enabled immortality.
"My Robot Baby"
This film was the second least broad concept of the four and is consequently the second most interesting tale. Like a Real Life `The Sims' game, this film offers a scenario in which a couple receives a robot child as test to see if they can care for a real baby.
Of the four, this one is perhaps the most naturally acted and directed. It's a smart choice to have as the first film in the series, because it is impossible to figure out what direction it will end up going in until it finally inches to the end. There are times when it seems like it is a Twilight Zone style alternate universe tale, times when it seems like a charming family drama. While we care for the relationship between the couple, we can't figure out how we should care about Marcia after the beginning scene of her as a child. The robot child starts to act more and more berserk, and the film starts to veer off in a direction like it will become a horror movie.
While the film sometimes seemed like it would go in an obvious direction, let it be said that Pak never takes the easy way out and has a way of controlling just what expectations are made for the viewer. This Story deserves ***/****.
"The Robot Fixer"
Easily the most moving, timeless tale of the four, this story gives the film an early peak. The story is the tale of Bernice Chin and her daughter, Grace, as they visit Bernice's estranged son Wilson, who has been hit by a car and is in a coma. Bernice and Grace stay in Wilson's apartment during their stay to see if Wilson recovers.
Bernice is frustrated by how estranged she has gotten from her son in the many years previous. She attempts to make up for lost time by cleaning everything in his rooms and making them spotless and presentable. When Grace finds a brand of toy robots that Wilson collected as children, Bernice finds a new mission: She will replace all the missing pieces of the toys and make Wilson's collection complete. She believes that if she can repair his treasured toy collection, perhaps Wilson could be revived from the coma.
The direction, acting, and screenwriting give this piece a wonderfully natural, believable feeling. Because of Pak's charming simplicity, the story is beautifully relatable with just about anyone that could watch it. "The Robot Fixer" finds Pak catering completely to his strengths. The movie includes many subtle nuances and builds on its main themes quite knowingly, as when Grace tells her mom of how valuable each of Wilson's organs could be donated to many hopeful organ receivers around the country. It becomes evident how meaningful Bernice's struggle to mend her child with the toy pieces is, and we start to see there is a bigger meaning here than simply Bernice trying to mend her estranged relationship with her son.
"The Robot Fixer" is a timeless tale that moved me to tears. If this section of the film could be separated into its own short, it would certainly be one of the year's very best. On its own, it gets ****/****.
After an early peak, the film hits its lowest point with "Machine Love". This film's premise seems to be made on a series of "What if?"'s so long that a viewer either has to be with it or totally against it. For some reason, there is a requirement for computers to type up information they already know for 12 hours a day. Also, robots long to have love only to be like other people in the workplace. This premise didn't have any believability to me, and especially will not appeal to anyone that didn't buy the film A.I. (which much more confidently and thoroughly explored the same thematic issues this film does)
This film isn't particularly amusing or interesting, and the premise is thin even for a half hour short. The whole story seems like it was written by someone with lesser talents and a lot lower filmmaking vision than the previous two films, even if it is admittedly very well acted and directed. The robots actually seem and look like robots, and the little touches of the robot discovering about personal interactions are nuanced. But overall, it gets */****.
The purpose of "Clay" seems to be to transcend the previous three stories into a tale of the finality of life. If you take the aspect of substituting love for humans with love for a robot from "My Robot Baby", combine with it the futuristic innovations of "Machine Love", and the aspect of coping with death through machines with "The Robot Fixer", you could possibly come up with the film "Clay" as an ending point. The premise involves a man who is dying of a terminal illness and his potential future as a "scanned" person in the computerized afterlife. This film has the most inventive premise of the four, but...
Unfortunately, there isn't a single aspect from this film that hasn't already been explored in another film. Any of the visions of technology have been given to us before, most notably in the previous two Tom Cruise Sci-Fi vehicles, Vanilla Sky and Minority Report. They both explore using technology to recreate lives after death. Soderbergh's Solaris goes even a step further, in that it explored the psychological underpinnings of living with a false version of a past love. Anything explored here has been explored much more deeply before.
Basically "Clay" is as uninspired in its view of the material as "The Robot Fixer" was unique and powerful. It gets **
Overall, the film gets **1/2, but "The Robot Fixer" deserves to be seen by anyone interested in independent cinema.
- Dec 8, 2003