Adapted for the screen and directed by Michael Almereyda, Marjorie Prime takes place largely within in a single, Steve Jobs-inspired interior. A meditation on memory, mortality, and what it means to be human, Marjorie Prime is set in the not-so-distant future where cell phones are transparent, and a type of artificial intelligence called Primes have replaced grief counselors. Primes are meant to replicate, in appearance and demeanor, a deceased loved one. They rely on those close to the departed—a husband, wife, daughter, etc.—to feed them memories, in order to help them better replicate the individuals they were built to simulate.
As her final days approach, we watch Marjorie (Lois Smith) rehash old memories with a computerized version of her deceased husband, Walter “Prime” (Jon Hamm). Through heavy, sometimes obtuse, dialogue between Marjorie, Walter, Marjorie’s Daughter Tess (Geena Davis), and Tess’s husband (Tim Robbins), the actors unspool the tragic history of a family who use technology as a conduit to heal their broken, grieving hearts. Using conversations that largely focus on an event in Tess’s childhood that splintered the family forever, the film pieces together the fragments of their collective past. In doing so, it explores how what we try to forget ultimately shapes our relationships and lives.
At times a pretentious and unnecessarily heady, Almereyda’s film uses grief robots as a way to examine anxieties about mortality and familial love. At once moving and gratuitous, Almereyda’s film unfortunately calls on the cautionary trope about the potential of artificial intelligence to supersede humanity. If you like films that seem like plays and enjoy watching long shots of the Long Island Sound, this is the film for you. 3/5
Top Photo Courtesy of Passage Pictures
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Sarah C. Epstein is a writer and creator living in NYC. In her free time she enjoys eating berries, reflecting on her dreams, and hanging out with her pet snake, Sydney. Find her online at cricketepstein.com.