Auggie, co-written and directed by Matt Kane, is a new sci-fi drama that feels like something that would have been released years ago. A well-meaning but creepy exercise in wish fulfillment, the film serves as a solid starring vehicle for veteran character actor Richard Kind, but precious little else.
The film tells the story of a man who is forced into early retirement that falls in love with an augmented reality companion, wreaking havoc on his relationship with his family. What can only be described as Her but a million times creepier, this film feels so out-of-touch that it is shocking that it was written and directed by someone much younger than the film’s protagonist.
In many ways, the film feels like the fantasy of an old man who wants to reclaim his youth by sleeping with younger women. However, even more problematic is the fact that the focus of the protagonist’s desires does not have free will. Perhaps the film is trying to provide commentary on this, but if so, it is unclear and not delivered effectively.
Additionally, the romance at the core of the film isn’t particularly interesting. Because of the problematic nature of the concept, it’s hard to truly get behind the film. Unlike the more successful Her, Auggie lacks the tragic feeling that makes the story so impactful. The protagonist, Felix, is obviously experiencing a rough period in his life, the film fails to establish him as having reached rock bottom.
The character development in the film also lacks complexity. Although the audience will connect with Felix because of the way in which he has been put down by society, there is little more to his personality than that. His arc isn’t particularly unique or satisfying either. The supporting characters also feel extremely underdeveloped and are not effectively utilized as tools to further develop Felix.
That said, the film does feature a good performance from Kind. Kind’s charm is the main thing that keeps the film afloat, as it is really the only factor that makes the character remotely lovable. He is really able to become the role in a way that is quite impressive. Christen Harper, who plays the eponymous AR entity, is also good, although there isn’t much to her character.
On a technical level, the film is surprisingly strong, especially since it is at such a low budget. To simulate the VR experience without special effects or props, the film utilizes POV shots which, while a basic tool, is very effective. Having the characters stare directly at the camera in a close-up for a prolonged period of time lends the film the surreal and dreamlike quality that it needs to be successful.
Thoroughly creepy and inferior to other similar films that came before, Auggie manages to be a surprisingly decent film nonetheless thanks to a strong performance from Richard Kind and inspired execution. The biggest problem with this film is that it doesn’t seem to have a clear audience.
Auggie is now in theaters and on VOD.