Sombre music accompanies a brisk beach day as we focus on a man, who appears to be talking to himself, or maybe us. With actor-writer-director Matt Kane’s feature debut Auggie, there is much more than meets the eye, but you will have to put some specs on to see it.
Felix, an architect forced into retirement, brings a whole lot of awkwardness to his send off speech – you can feel his colleagues toes curl and eyes roll as they frankly couldn’t care this man will no longer be at their firm. After a few forced smiles and a somewhat clichéd farewell, instead of the classic company watch as a parting gift he receives a high-tech pair of glasses in the hope a buddy or rather an augmented reality companion will keep his loneliness at bay during retirement. Felix soon realizes that ‘Auggie’ isn’t any old projection visible via his new glasses – it is his desired mate. Given how things go perhaps a watch would have been better.
On the surface this man’s life seems pretty darn good – palatial home, family sit down dinners, a wife who says I Love You just a tad too often. Now he has all the time in the world to relax and do whatever he has always dreamed of. However terse, forced exchanges about this new chapter of his life accentuate just how lost he already feels with copious amounts of time on his hand. Very much like the constraints of lockdown, we see him wondering aimlessly around the house – until his connection with Auggie becomes much more than just a pastime.
As Felix’s companion is revealed, a sudden shiver washes over as you realise this woman his sub-conscious as cooked up as his ideal female is basically the same age as his daughter. Pushing that notion aside, the terrifying thought that technology is invading our lives, even our minds is so compelling it just might make you have an old fashioned phone call taking yourself for a stroll rather than a Zoom for your next catch up.
The disconnect it has ultimately created despite its benefits for Felix tears through the center of this man’s universe; leaving everyone befuddled as to why he became overtly attached in the first place. Despite Christen Harper’s all-consuming beauty as airbrushed Auggie, Richard Kind as the accommodating, enduring, meek husband Felix is the star here. His tone, mannerisms and sweet side smile create a cocktail of empathy and understanding as to why he does this. Boredom, loneliness and one’s mental wellbeing scream out from the screen and at times completely warrant why this man got so hooked initially.
The concept here is nothing new; comparisons with ‘Her’ and ‘Ex-Machina’ gleam through the cracks, nevertheless Auggie offers a fun and chilling tale. Much like the world we live in today governed by technology, nothing beats physical human interaction. Auggie is arguably driven on communication but the discussions lack meaning, purpose – the constant exchange of declaring their love for one another is almost robotic. Delving deeper, adding another layer would have aided exploring the avenues this man goes down in order to fulfill his needs. This has all the hallmarks of a Black Mirror episode, in fact it could very easily just slip into the next series dangling dangerously between two worlds.
A strong start for first time feature director Kane, providing us with a subtle and easy watch fulfilling your sci-fi fix, while you seek comfort in the fact Auggie hasn’t infiltrated your life (yet).