‘Simulant‘, is a Canadian sci-fi thriller that presents an intriguing premise that explores the nature of androids and their increasing sentience.
Set in the near future, a humanoid AI’s attempt to win over a widow’s heart places it in the path of a government agent trying to stop the rise of machine consciousness.
The film is directed by April Mullen and written by Ryan Christopher Churchill, the film delves into the complex relationship between humans and artificial intelligence. While the concept holds potential, Simulant ultimately falls short in its execution, leaving audiences with mixed feelings.
The film’s biggest strength is its thought-provoking central question: What makes someone truly human? Is it the life in them or the conscience?
‘Simulant‘ seems to draw inspiration from several familiar sci-fi films with a similar premise where androids coexist with humans. The story in these films is typically these artificial intelligence beings evolving, learning more than they are supposed to, getting more self-aware and then revolting against humans.
Churchill‘s, screenplay doesn’t stray far from this plot. His exploration of the theme is commendable and has some prospect that unfortunately is not fully exploited by the end of this film.
Another thing that seems to help this film is the casting choices. If not for anything you would want to see this film because of the talents you see on the poster. The film manages to secure the talents of established actors such as Robbie Amell, Jordana Brewster, Sam Worthington, and Simu Liu. Their performances are really what saves this film from being a total disaster.
Brewster showcases her prowess as a leading lady displaying a varying range of emotions that are enough to convince you of every choice that Faye makes. Amell plays Evan, the central character of the film. The way he can switch between emotions and the lack of them is exactly what advances the idea of a humanoid. The chemistry between these two actors is palpable, enhancing the emotional depth of the story.
Worthington also brings to bear so much experience that broadens the character Kesseler who could have easily been a one-dimensional antagonist. Kessler is committed to his duty to protect humans but he also has his internal conflicts to deal with which makes him flawed even as a protector.
Simulant‘s potential is hindered by its overall execution. The film suffers from disjointed storytelling, attempting to weave together three separate storylines without providing them with adequate development. This lack of focus detracts from the overall cohesion of the narrative, leaving viewers feeling confused and detached from the characters’ journeys. It becomes evident that the filmmakers struggled to determine which aspect to emphasize, resulting in a diluted and muddled plot. As much as you try to, it is difficult to be fully absorbed and attentive to this film.
Moreover, the film’s production values leave much to be desired. The visual execution falls short of creating a convincing futuristic setting. Everything looks as it looks now when the story is supposed to be set sometime in the future. The inclusion of outdated technology, like cars with CD players, alongside cheap-looking CGI billboards, undermines the immersion and believability of the world presented. The result is a product that lacks the visual polish expected from a sci-fi thriller, ultimately diminishing the impact of key moments and failing to transport viewers into the envisioned future.
Nonetheless, it does feel like an indie film with a bigger budget than most indie projects. Except that this bigger budget was enough to perfectly execute a story that seems to deserve a huge studio’s backing.
April Mullen’s work also suffers from pacing issues, with the plot occasionally meandering and failing to maintain a consistent level of tension. Some crucial plot points are revealed through background noise or mentioned in passing, detracting from their significance and diminishing their impact on the overall story. This lack of clarity and attention to detail further hinders the film’s ability to engage its audience fully. The fact that this is not a story that is new or fresh makes it even more difficult not to be critical of.
Despite its imperfections, Simulant manages to deliver genuine moments of emotional depth. The film delves into the theme of identity, particularly concerning the humanoids and their evolving consciousness, prompting profound contemplation on the nature of humanity and the limits of artificial intelligence. Through moments of introspection and self-discovery, Simulant showcases glimpses of its potential to deliver powerful and poignant storytelling.
I would rate this film 6/10.
Simulant presents an intriguing concept that fails to reach its full potential due to execution issues. While the film benefits from strong performances and a compelling central question, its disjointed storytelling, lacklustre production values, and pacing problems hinder the overall experience of it being close to a well-executed film.