The Artifice Girl

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Artificial intelligence is a hot topic. Writer/director/star Franklin Ritch presents a thought-provoking reflection on a timeworn idea. What if a computer became sentient? The consideration has been handled countless times. Ex Machina is a successful interpretation. M3GAN less so. In this account, a software engineer has written a program of a digital child to snare criminals who prey on minors in chat rooms. He’s created his own version of the Dateline NBC show To Catch a Predator.

The narrative is structured as a chamber play of three acts that cover the past, present, and future. It begins in an interrogation room. Special agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard) angrily cross-examine a suspect named Gareth (Franklin Ritch). (In an alternate universe of lookalike actors, Susan Sarandon and Domhnall Gleeson would portray Deena and Gareth). The interrogators believe Gareth is exploiting a preteen (Tatum Matthews). They discover Cherry isn’t a real girl but software the vigilante has created to bait and trap online predators. He then feeds the information he acquires anonymously to the authorities in an altruistic desire to stop their nefarious activities. There’s a deeper reason why he’s doing this. The moral and ethical concerns over manipulating a program that looks and acts like a human child will also be addressed.

The Artifice Girl is dense with words. The production vacillates between fascinating dialogues and sluggish exposition. The saga begins rather promisingly. However, each subsequent chapter is less captivating than the one prior. Ninety minutes of people having a heated discussion in a room can grow tiring. Tatum Matthews stands out as the perceptive Cherry. There’s a point where the program reveals herself to be more advanced than previously thought. At that moment, I was giddy with the possibilities. Perhaps the story would focus on her technology. We might even see how Cherry was designed to execute her purpose. That is never dramatized or even suggested. However, we do get star Lance Henriksen as the elder version of Gareth in the third act, where he is reprimanded by his own creation. That conversation is a depressing end to a promising start.

Film is a visual medium, but occasionally, a high-concept sci-fi movie will impress with grand ideas despite its low-budget constraints. Primer (2004), Coherence (2013), and The Vast of Night (2019) are examples. A dialogue-driven dissertation where people simply talk in a single location can be engaging. Still, your actors better be as witty and intelligent as Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory for that to work.

The Artifice Girl is available to rent on digital platforms (Apple TV, Amazon Video, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Redbox, etc.)


2 Responses to “The Artifice Girl”

  1. The acting was just ok. But I liked the dialogue and story. I thought the girl was good though. 3 ⭐️

    Liked by 1 person

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