IT MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS OF A HARD PROBLEM!
Premiering at Cinequest, A Hard Problem blends hot sci-fi with credible drama, brought to the screen by a visionary directing duo called Hazart. Ian just lost his mother and tries to reconnect with his estranged sister who seems to be reluctant in accepting him. He then meets Olivia, a stranger who helps Ian processing his reality as well as his past and inevitable future. It may seem a little simplistic due to a non-spoilery synopsis, but A Hard Problem is more than the sum of its parts.
It stars John Berchtold as the lead character, who after so many weird rejections by his blood sister, soon finds out he is not human, but a human-like android called a Parallel. Parallels were created by a company named Qualia, whose expertise lies in mass producing these androids, which act like replacements for loved ones that passed away, helping grieving relatives to resist the need of saying goodbye. Parallels are also extremely sensitive to human needs and replicate or mimic the behaviors, mannerisms and personality traits of the deceased they are embodying. But Ian is not an ordinary Parallel, and that’s why Olivia is send to study his behavior after Ian’s sister is desperate to get rid of him in order to move on with her life. At first, Olivia is fearful, but nevertheless impressed by the unusual ability that Ian has to feel emotions like a human being. They start to spend time together and an unexpected bond begins to be forged between the two of them.
A Hard Problem is probably one of the most captivating sci-fi dramas you will find in the current cinematic landscape. It certainly removes itself from blockbuster concepts and instead relies on a strong and captivating premise filled with humanity, consciousness and heart. Hazart‘s direction takes advantage of many factors that contribute to make the film thoughrouly enjoyable, using technology to create a simplistic worldbuilding that knows exactly where to stop to avoid becoming fantastical in a sense that it makes itself believable, plausible and credible to the viewer. There is also some ethical questions that are explored in a very humane point of view, allowing the human-like machines to perceive and experience reality not as machines, but as sentient creatures. That is where A Hard Problem gets its biggest compliments, because the film never sounds as artificial while exposing and describing its characters. Without the mass appeal of Westworld, and the non-mechanical treatment of the robot figures like Channel 4‘s Humans, A Hard Problem reveals itself as a tender, nuanced reflection on how life is perceived by highly advanced machines who are made to act almost entirely like us.
There is a beautiful paradox that makes A Hard Problem a special film, exploring the concept of death in both living and non-living realms. Is the death of a machine the same as a human death? Is it possible for a machine to become human? To feel emotions like we do? We have always seen Hollywood attempting to make this possibility sound believable, but few films or television shows have made it with this much intensity and veracity. Although the film needed some extra elements to be even better (focusing on Qualia’s background would be a good choice for the viewer to have a glimpse of how big this company is and its ethics towards the creation of these machines), A Hard Problem takes its time to click on the juicy substance it has in store for the public. Through gorgeously crafted dialogues and surprisingly charismatic performances, A Hard Problem becomes an object of study that sci-fi lovers will certainly be interested in. The cast lead by Berchtold and Catherine Haena Kim is absorbing and is talented enough to make you connect with the characters, bringing a special sense of proximity like we are dealing with people close to us.
“Ghosts don’t have to be real for the dead to visit the living” is one of the many quotes that will stick to your brain as you dig deep into the psyche of what the majority of humans thinks about machines replacing our species. And this exploration of more meaningful values makes A Hard Problem stand out of the action-driven-plot we usually relate to this type of science fiction. A Hard Problem is an exciting, dense and intimate approach to the humanity we can still replicate in what we create at our image.
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Title: A Hard Problem
Original Title: A Hard Problem
Runtime: 108 min.