Charlie (Josh Odsess-Rubin) is on a losing streak – after his last relationship ended dramatically when his partner’s cat got squashed to death in a KFC car park, his life has been a series of rejected Tinder matches and loneliness.
Fed up of trying to pick up girls with Lord of the Rings references that flop like a ton of bricks, he stumbles upon Real Companion, a service that allows him to build his perfect woman and create the AI Manic Pixie Dream Girl he needs.
Not Your Average Robot
When April (Jacqueline Jandrell) is delivered by an unsuspecting postman, Charlie falls instantly in love with her. She is everything he’s ever wanted (and designed) – British accent, brown hair, prefers Star Wars over Star Trek – but something’s not quite there, something that is still clearly robotic in her nature.
She doesn’t maintain eye-contact, makes beeping noises when she’s learning something new, and awkwardly flips pancakes in a manic fashion – but Charlie’s love can look past those quirks. Jandrell blends this role of the “perfect woman” and AI-powered machine perfectly, blankly staring into the distance during the more intimate moments reminds the audience that she is not fully human, something that Charlie gradually begins to forget.
There is something to be said about the influence of Black Mirror in our cultural conversation – the concept of a perfect robot partner was explored in the second series back in the 2013 episode, “Be Right Back.” The existential horror of sharing a life with a presence that treads the line of uncanny is something that has almost become cliché at this point, but writer-directors Alxis Ratkevich and Chloe Taylor subvert our expectations in favor of a more nuanced exploration of gender relations.
I’m Just A Girl
As their relationship progresses, Charlie begins to notice that elements of April’s personality are developing in ways he didn’t expect. While he’s happy to spend time together in the confines of his modest house, April starts to desire more from her existence and quickly fills up her time attending yoga classes and AA meetings (“you don’t even drink!” Charlie exclaims, “I knew watching Leaving Las Vegas was a bad idea”).
It turns out that while Charlie was creating April, he accidentally pressed the “Real Woman” button – a feature rarely used by other customers – which make the AI companion capable of developing their own personality, beyond the confines of Charlie’s imagination. It becomes clear that he has not been looking for a relationship, however much he might be deluding himself otherwise, he just wants the benefits of a “girlfriend” around the house to agree with his every word. When he berates April for leaving him “sitting here starving” while she was out at an evening class, missing their evening meal together, she reminds him that she doesn’t even eat.
A Girl from a Box doesn’t bludgeon you over the head with a more overt exploration of gender relations, but it is in these quieter moments that the film perfectly skewers the concept of the ‘ideal’ woman – April is not just a one-dimensional iteration of his desires, but instead a person (sort of) who is as messy and complex as him.
Conclusion: A Girl from a Box
A gentle examination of the very basis of how we perceive and understand others, A Girl from a Box is a light-hearted short that manages to delve deep into modern relationships with a funny and delicate touch.
What is your favorite film about human-AI relationships? Let us know in the comment section below!
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