The Artifice Girl – Dark Secrets used for good?

The Artifice Girl is another notable entry into the pantheon of ever-evolving, low budget sci-fi that squares itself at the centre of a discourse around the creation of A.I. as these technologies become a greater part of our lives. In Artifice, Gareth (Franklin Ritch) is interrogated by special agent Amos (David Girard) and the head of the child-trafficking prevention department Denna (Sinda Nichols). The two have led operation to run stings trying to bait online predators and traffickers in an operation likened to what you’ve probably seen on Chris Hansen. Told in three parts, Artifice Girl reveals more about Amos and Deena’s operation and how Gareth’s revolutionary breakthroughs and darkly-coded past could help create a breakthrough.

Breakout director Franklin Ritch is a filmmaker to watch out for, both behind and in front of the camera. Not only is he excellent as the lead but he slots himself perfectly into this A.I thriller. Developed as he looked at articles about how technology was being used to combat crime, especially involving predators, Ritch created an intriguing character piece that explores the cycle of trauma and the mental baggage that we carry can stain what we create, whether its human or not.

The film’s uses impressive minimalistic special effects that immerse you in the future that the narrative sets up. What’s more, the cinematography also creates engaging lighting that doesn’t distract from the harrowing situation but is certainly aesthetically engaging. It has a professional look that creates a cinematic quality out of its more stage-like scenes. The editing is dynamic as they use purposeful camera movements, changing angles and varying shot lengths to emphasize the impact of the work of the actors.

In many ways, the filmmaker’s work is bolstered by its cast. The A.I character named Charry is played by Tatum Matthews, a child actress who is well casted and fits the character. Like many child actors, she does struggle to create some of her emotional scenes believable, but it works with the films intention to present her as an artificial intelligence who is only learning to experience human emotion. The ensemble works very well together and create a specific approach to make the film’s focus on dialogue both dynamic and realistic. The dialogue is also often excellent with lines that bounce off each other well and create intriguing drama while efficiently informing viewers of the stakes and information necessary to follow along with the story. While it does lean into a more poetic form a bit much, the conversations are gripping, and every part of the filmmaking and story process supports that.

This is a film that is best experienced blindly. All these characters ask different questions and reckon their own personal issues with each other and the audience as Artifice provokes us to think about what makes us human. However, Ritch also takes it further by focusing more on the human side of discovering A.I and what that might mean for us as a species. The film’s lens on a group of agents who work to catch predators create an interesting moral dilemma as the characters must figure out what they will do to ensure the safety of children, even if it means putting an A.I who looks and feels like a child in the same predicament.

The film’s final shot asks how we define freedom and what the human incarnation of A.I might contrast with our limited lives. It’s interesting to think about how we figure out what our purpose is, while A.I are programmed with it. Perhaps we are programmed with a purpose and we simply have to spend more time finding it. One hopes that purpose will make a difference and help the people and issues we care about while preventing harm. But, in a world where doing good takes work, how much is too much? Can that apply to beings who may be human but also could feel and think the way we do? If these are questions you find intriguing, watch the film and you should be engaged by how this story challenges you.

The Artifice Girl is available on VOD on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023.

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