At the beginning of the film, the head honcho for the huge corporation Wifelike is speaking as if he is making a commercial or a pitch for a product at a meeting. He states “Update your wife. Upgrade your life.” At that point, I was ready to throw something at the screen. Real life people are no longer necessary in this “futuristic” world of AI products custom made by each man willing to pay the price. “Sex sells” was also another phrase that was tossed about, making me wonder just where this film with scantily clad women was going – no where except in the garbage, I thought.
Thankfully, writer/director James Bird (We Are Boats, The Circuit: Star Crew) takes Wifelike in a different direction that I will not try to spoil here. A member of the investigative/recovery team at the Wifelike corporation, William Bradwell (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Yakuza Princess), is introduced as a widower and elects to have an AI for a wife, Meredith (Elena Kampouris, Jupiter’s Legacy TV Series). William takes the beautiful new partner home, speaking gently to her as he introduces himself and the surroundings. Part of the reassurance is reminding her she can breathe and walk like normal. He is allowed to customize the settings into her processor unit, as she repeats the list of what he can adjust, the levels available, as well as the preferred language. Once she has suggested the recommended percentage of physical intimacy for her settings, the audience receives a full dose of what she is capable of – programmed to please. This processing unit comes with a charging station. Yep, so she is at full power to conduct her duties (and requests by the owner/husband) the following day. At one point in the film, we learn the processing unit has some actions/activities programmed with “Access Denied.” Kampouris is excellent in this role in both the physical and vocal performance of an AI, and although initially it is quite eerie to hear her sound robot -like, she eases into the daily activities soon enough.
At first, director/writer Bird’s work may seem too familiar/similar to other science-fiction stories, but despite this, the story about Meredith (and subsequently other “companion AI” women) is developed to keep the viewer engaged. The “companions” are to have limited to no memories and yet Meredith begins to have visions and encounters with people that William is not pleased to hear about. He refuses to have his way of life threatened and fights to keep it at any cost. Bradwell is used to doing his work duties, including violence. Meyers is excellent as his character is mild mannered for Meredith, but is great range of acting skills shine brightly as a villainous side is exposed.
Even if someone viewing the film gets vibes from The Stepford Wives, this entertaining thriller with great performances has a theme of dominance and many do not concur with what the corporation stands for. This sci-fi film has some action, not as seen in the summer blockbusters, but among those in this human/AI world created by James Bird.
Starring: Doron Bell, Agam Darshi, Fletcher Donovan, Alix Villaret, Caitlin Stryker, Rachelle Goulding and Sara Sampaio. Rated R for sexual content, nudity, violence and language. On Digital August 12, 2022
Source: SP Media Group and Paramount Home Entertainment