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Thursday, April 27, 2023 | Reviews


Starring Tatum Matthews, Lance Henriksen and Sinda Nichols
Written and directed by Franklin Ritch
XYZ Films

Though science fiction as a genre may evoke epics of Star Wars or Dune-level proportions for the casual viewer, some of the most effective films in the canon play out on a comparably microscopic ratio. THE ARTIFICE GIRL is undeniably an example of this. Over the course of three distinct acts, this film proves itself a stunning achievement in screenwriting and a worthy addition to a long line of compelling chamber dramas. 

THE ARTIFICE GIRL opens with two special agents in a dark and barren room. Agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Giard) bring in a standoffish and slightly disheveled Gareth (played by writer and director Franklin Ritch) to discuss what was found on his computer. Gareth knows that the agents work for the ICWL, a humanitarian group, but what he doesn’t know is that these two specifically hunt online predators who solicit children. They interrogate Gareth about one young girl, in particular, whose pictures are all over his hard drive, Cherry (Tatum Matthews), who has no last name, no social security number, no parents and no trace of ever being alive. Throughout the film, debates about topics such as consent, artificial intelligence and what constitutes humanity are explored and dissected. 

Ritch’s film requires patience from its audience. Its dialogue-heavy script could easily be translated to the stage. The film’s three acts take place in three rooms, with no frills, relying solely on the performances of the few actors and the quality of the writing – and it is well worth the investment. The actors bring incredible gravitas to THE ARTIFICE GIRL, most notably Tatum Matthews, who conveys much pathos in her robotic character and holds her own against acting legends like Lance Henriksen. It is also deeply refreshing to see Henriksen cast in a very serious yet muted role instead of the villain caricature he is so often assigned.

Along with being a testament to what someone can accomplish with bare-bones assets, THE ARTIFICE GIRL also does not seem interested in contributing to the ongoing debate about artificial intelligence. This movie doesn’t feel like a preachy cautionary tale about how humans need to consider the consequences of our creations. Instead, it feels like A.I. is simply used as a narrative device to talk about the depths of humanity when we consider emotions, art, and trauma. Franklin Ritch’s debut film is a breathtaking experience that will make you fall in love with movies all over again, and it is thrilling to know that this is only the beginning.

THE ARTIFICE GIRL from XYZ Films is in theaters and on digital and on-demand now.

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