• 25 Jul - 31 Jul, 2020
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An under-the-radar indie science fiction film whose mix of accessible themes and strong execution make it worthy of broader exposure, Gavin Rothery's Archive watches as a robot designer tries to exploit his job with a megacorporation for a very personal goal: He wants to build a robot shell for the computer-archived memories and personality of his dead wife.

Theo James plays George Almore, who's been sent by himself to work in a "mothballed facility" owned by what one scene intriguingly hints is a "sovereign" corporation. Who knows what their core products are, but he's supposed to single-handedly fix up this outpost in a snowy Japanese forest while simultaneously refining a big, boxy robot with "01" stenciled on its side.

But while the ungainly 01 is what he shows to his boss (Rhona Mitra) on their video-call status updates, George already has a second-generation version up and running, and this one can talk to him. A third iteration, this one fully humanoid in its shape, is half-completed in his lab.

If J3 proves suitable, he'll make this 'bot the new home of memories currently stored in the wardrobe-sized box where Archive Systems Incorporated has stored his wife's essence.

Outside forces – corporate warfare, perhaps? – threaten to wreak havoc at this facility, and if George's bosses find out what he's doing, they'll surely confiscate everything he has made. So it's worrisome when J2 shows signs of instability in daily chores. Really, how could you create a robot teenage girl and not expect trouble?

Rothery's computerized-afterlife premise riffs on a zeitgeisty notion explored most recently in Greg Daniels' Upload series, but the film echoes the cinema of artificial humans more broadly, from Ex Machina and Westworld back to 2001 and Metropolis. Rothery draws less attention to the profundity of his material than many of his predecessors do, but he's smart about his themes in ways that can't really be identified without ruining some of the film. Rothery's script opens up enough possibilities that it's impossible to guess what kind of action will bring the story to a close – a HAL 9000-style freakout? a saboteur? a desperate escape from military assault? – but it seems a pretty safe bet that a long marriage to an eternally-young, loving robo-wife isn't in the cards for this lonely man.