Main Features No 82
A Search for a Mother’s Love
After a series of misunderstandings, David – a Mecha (robot) boy conditioned to love his mother – is abandoned. He then sets off with his teddy on a quest to become a real live boy, with his everlasting hope of rewinning his mother’s love.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence International Trailer #1(2001), kbros9698, http://www.youtube.com
Devoted readers – and those of you who know me – know I will cry at most movies. So selecting just one for this blogathon was difficult. Darlin’ Husband always remembers I cry at every film and always has a supportive hand to hold. However I never cry at rom-coms
anymore because I find them contrived and predictable. To give a recent example, I sobbed on three different occasions at Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 (2017). Other tear inducing movies include most of Christopher Plummer’s roles – as nice guy, villain and 1965’s The Sound of Music‘s Captain von Trapp – and the 1980s hopeful romantic adventure story, Romancing the Stone (1984). I also cried at Star Wars’ Attack of the Clones (2002) on its release, at its in-film love story – despite the absurdity of some lines, “I like sand!” – and subsequently didn’t take in the rest of the plot. I was relieved when my Star Wars lovin’ Darlin’ Husband (his full title here, sounds like a Dolly Parton song) told me later that it was the chick flick of the prequels and that was the plot.
This film is one gets me in tears every time. It starred then wee child star Haley Joel Osment of The Sixth Sense (1999) and more recently seen as the beardy weirdy adult in Tusk (1999), a Kevin Smith movie. The film is AI – Artificial Intelligence (2001) with Osment in the leading role as David, the Mecha / robot boy. The story starts in the 22nd Century, when after a period of global warming, resulting in many familiar cities being found underwater. Humans have created robots named Mechas to assist them due to the decrease in the world’s population. Dr. Hobby (William Hurt) is the boss at an institute creating these Mechas. In one of the first scenes, he explains to a room crammed full of his employees how he’s hoping to create the ultimate Mecha. He’s going to create a Mecha child who can be conditioned to love his parents. But this man is stumped when a colleague asks, would the Mecha be loved in return.
Flashforward 20 months, having created this ultimate Mecha – David (Osment) – Hobby selects a family to test his product. He chooses the Monica (Frances O’Connor) and Henry Swinton (Sam Robards) who have a child at death’s door. And Hobby feels for this tragic reason they would be ideal parents. The Swinton’s child Martin (Jake Thomas) has been in a pod in suspended animation awaiting the day he can be cured and the pair are devoted parents. So Henry brings this Mecha child home, with his wife Monica is horrified yet intrigued by this boy Mecha. As we are. I was transfixed by Osment as David in these scenes, intense and unblinking, questioning everything and learning. He takes in his environment be it family photos or observing making coffee. Monica is detached from him as her husband teaches him practical daily living skills. Henry tells Monica only when she is ready should she say the words to him to create bonding with this Mecha through an imprinting process.
After a day where the Mecha follows her day and her every move, Monica appears not to have feelings for the Mecha. However after a uncomfortable “family” dinner in silence, the three end up in laughter, Monica feels more feelings towards the boy. The next day she carries out the imprinting process and the small unblinking one eyes are then full of love. He hugs her and calls her mummy for the first time and she calls him David. I meanwhile am in tears at this wonderfully touching scene between mother and
son Mecha. In contrast, as Henry has not imprinted with the Mecha, the Mecha continues to call him by his first name. Monica and David continue to bond and she gives him her son Martin’s old teddy bear, Teddy and he sleeps in a really cool space age bed. Although he does not sleep. Teddy is also a walking, talking supertoy – and no relation to Ted (2012) despite what some expect you to believe – and he and David become strong friends.
Then the Swintons’ life changes, as their son Martin recovers and comes home. Realistic scenes show this human child questioning this Mecha, not accepting him in a brotherly role. And Martin’s increasing jealously of the supertoy – as he calls David – that has joined the family. After Monica tells both boys the Pinocchio story, with Martin now sleeping in the space age bed and a cold more austere bed for David. Martin taunts David, saying he is a real boy, he can do things David can’t and therefore their mummy doesn’t love him. A sibling rivalry of sorts occurs. Martin cruelly claims that a cutting a lock of his mother’s hair during the night will create her everlasting love. David believes him and Henry and Monica wake to David appearing to threaten Monica with some scissors. Henry misinterprets David’s actions with the scissors as hatred, his wife justifies David’s actions after hearing his motives. Henry’s fears of the Mecha’s apparent desire to harm his family continue after an almost fatal accident involving Martin where David’s actions are again misunderstood.
This incident leads to Monica driving David to Hobby’s institute to be destroyed, however her maternal bond is so strong that she leaves him in its nearby woods. In a heartbreaking scene where David and his teddy are abandoned Monica leaves him and apologises for not telling him of the real world. David resolves to find Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy. He reasons the fairy will turn him into a real boy and he will then regain the everlasting love from his beloved mummy… as he sets off with his teddy.
I’ll leave you to continue the story from there, but add there are a further two main acts to this story as David’s adventures continue. So get more tissues. These scenes show the fear and resultant hatred of the humans towards the Mechas in their world. The human’s fear is from a belief that the Mechas will be there after the world is destroyed. Throughout the reminder of his almost eerie but moving performance, Osment’s performance is fantastic and he makes his character lovable. Not in a schmaltzy Disney kind of way but one where you feel your parental responsibilities get stronger as the story progresses. As a young child performer with small physical appearance and big expressive doe eyes, he brought out my motherly concerns for his welfare. The story led to an ending which both satisfies and fills you full of questions of what next. But not and I repeat not for a sequel.
This film is accompanied by some recurring haunting music written by John Williams played in many of Osment’s scenes, which often made me tearful on hearing it. The performances from all the cast are believable and the script eerily prophetic. Special mentions going to O’Connor as his “mother” who through her actions and words proves that Mechas can be loved in return, and Thomas as Martin whose part was written showing a realistic reaction from a child to a family newcomer. David’s friendship with Jude Law’s Joe – a Mecha he meets in later scenes and accompanies him on part of his journey – is almost like a parental Mecha figure for David. The CGI scenes are effective and enhance the story as you almost feel you have joined this Mecha’s travels for better and worse. And the ending scenes are heartwarming yet sad.
However from the beginning Osment’s Mecha makes you want to say the imprinting words for yourselves. And you constantly have to remind yourself this is a real boy playing a Mecha boy wanting to be a real boy. Which is really hard, as his wee face – particularly in the final scenes – is so expressive compared to the emotionless Mecha boy we meet before he becomes attached to his mommy. The way he says mommy in all the scenes and the tender mother-son moments would melt anyone’s heart. That is unless you have been conditioned from the start of the film to see him as a Mecha, conditioned to love and his feelings are the result of programming not emotion. As Hurt’s character does, oddly giving this child Mecha his young dead son’s face and name. Which makes Hobby’s role even more macabre. His attachment to the David Mecha’s is like this inventor’s surname, almost a hobby. So to sum up. you’ll be hurt at Hurt’s callous “father” figure, but those of you who know me and have seen this film admit it – you’ll have had a sixth sense I cried buckets at this young star’s performance. As Osment proved without a doubt, that you can get a
stepmother’s love for a Mecha boy.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦 😦😦😦 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 /10
Bonus Trailer: No
Blogathons Joined 2017, No 21
No YOU’RE Crying Blogathon / Tearjerker Blogathon
This review was added to the Our Favourite Tearjerker Films this blogathon run by Moon in Gemini. Other films with this cast only include William Hurt who appears in my Captain America Civil War and The Big Chill‘s reviews.