While the world continues to execute AI studies and advancements, April Mullen's sci-fi thriller movie Simulant, starring Simu Liu, Robbie Amell, Jordana Brewster and Sam Worthington, takes us into a world where androids and humans coexist.
The Canadian film, shot in Hamilton, Ont., is largely focused around wealthy couple Faye (Brewster) and Evan (Amell). A fatal car crash killed Evan and Faye isn't prepared to say goodbye to her husband, so she she activates a Simulant (SIM) of Evan, an exact replica that's programmed with the human Evan's memories.
As time progresses, this SIM version of her husband becomes less appealing for Faye. The laws around SIMS is that any "unwanted" androids need to be deactivated, but Faye can't bring herself to do it, so she essentially stores him in his own apartment instead. That's when this SIM meets Casey (Liu), a programmer who's figured out how to hack these androids, and wants to help Evan become more human to hopefully win Faye back, while trying to dodge Artificial Intelligence Compliance Enforcement (AICE) agent Kessler (Sam Worthington).
Mullen initially read Ryan Christopher Churchill's script for the movie six years ago and recalled that the ending "mortified" her.
"It just kept me up at night and I was tossing and turning,” Mullen told Yahoo Canada.
“I'm a huge advocate for humanity and human beings, and I love the everyday sort of mini miracles and mistakes, and happenstances of life. … It tore me up so much inside that I was like, I have to make this movie.”
'I would have done the exact same thing'
For Brewster, one of the things she loved about Simulant is that "you couldn't really tell who the villains were and who the good guys were."
In fact, the SIMS were among her favourite elements of the movie.
“They were loving and human and yummy,” Brewster said. “They felt more warm than the humans, who had sort of lost part of their humanity by making these deals with the devil, in a way.”
“So I think [that's] what I had fun with and had fun … discussing with April and with Rob and Simu, and it's just fun to be able to to make a film about these issues.”
When it comes ethical questions around Faye's decision to create this android of her late husband, Brewster believes she would done the same thing, if she was in Faye's position.
“I totally agree with what she did, but I wish that she could have given herself permission to enjoy it and to be present with him, instead of blocking him out and hating herself so much for it,” Brewster said.
“She's so torn with her choice, that's what's really frustrating about Faye, but I would have done the exact same thing.”
Finding the humanity in a robot
While Amell was given the task of embodying this android robot, the actor said that the great part about the role was that, because SIMS are so much like humans, he could just play "a guy who's wondering why his relationship isn't working out."
“He's a guy who's still in love with the same person that doesn't know why something's wrong,” Amell said.
“I think anybody can put themselves in those shoes and relate to that, and then finding that out … you've died and you've been replaced, and none of it makes sense, ... it just throws your entire world upside down.”
When thinking about the advancements that we've made with AI to date, which is significantly more technologically advanced than we were when Mullen initially read the script, the director believes the film has a "stamp" of society before things like ChatGPT.
“I don't know what's to come, but I do love that the film leaves you with four very different perspectives on life," Mullen said. "What love is, what it means to be a human being, whether we're fighting to coexist together and find love between each other, or whether that can't coexist."
"I like that it sort of poses those questions to the audience and leaves them to decide which storyline, or which future, they like to sort of live amongst."
Simulant opens in theatres across Canada April 7