Well, this is just odd. A 2011 Spanish sort-of version of A.I. or D.A.R.Y.L. where a man, Alex, returns to his hometown to program a special robot, the S.I.-9. We soon learn that he's been gone for ten years, since he abandoned his girlfriend, Marta, who is now married to his brother, David, who have a precocious ten-year-old daughter named Eva.
There's residual sexual tension between bro and now-sis-in-law, which is complicated by Eva's strong attraction to Alex, which deepens as Alex surreptitiously uses her to program his new S.I.-9.
In this world, apparently, AI is programmed by asking a bunch of word association-type questions, and plugging the recorded answers into some CGI effects. It's goofy, just go with it.
Actually, the whole plot is quite flimsy and doesn't bear a whole lot of scrutiny, but that's okay. As with Snowpiercer, once you get past the initial conceit, there's an entertaining story here, with some tension, a few feels, and the occasional twist and turn.
Some of the CGI less than stellar, though I think they did some clever stuff with the S.I.-9 itself. I think it was someone in a robot suit (there's a telltale thickness to the robot, which doesn't yet have skin or hair), and then I'm guessing they CGIed out the suit at certain joints. (Actually, I just looked it up and that's exactly what they did.)
There's a hit-and-miss robot cat. And a few (though not many) shots that are crowded with varieties of robots.
But you don't expect great CGI from a Spanish movie—or any European film—do you? What's noteworthy is how the humanoid robots communicate their robot-ness. In particular Lluis Homar plays a robot who cooks, cleans, and offers emotional support. However, he is not "free". Alex even orders him to turn down his emotions at one point. To level six. From eight.
Homar is just excellent. He doesn't do The Robot, either the dance or the overly artificial stiff movements time-honored among hacks; there's just enough stiffness and "unnatural" approaches to things, along with juuuuuust enough flatness in his voice for him to seem off. He won some awards for it. Like, three.
The acting is all around good: I don't know Marta Etura or Alberto Ammann, who played Eva's parents, and Claudia Vega (who played Eva) is a newcomer, but they were all quite good. Playing Alex was Daniel Bruhl, who's been in all kinds of Hollywood films, like A Most Wanted Man, The Bourne Ultimatum, Inglorious Basterds, and he plays Baron Zemo in the upcoming Captain America Flick.
And I think the acting and drama are why this works. (Duh?) The movie propels itself on emotion, which allows you to overlook the fantastic nature of the story. Sort of like a Ray Bradbury thing.
We were pleased. The Boy actually picked this because the trailers make it look sort of like a horror flick (it wasn't) where you didn't know what was going to happen (we didn't).