Sparky Pictures. UK Digital. 8th January
With the ongoing interest in the use of Artificial Intelligence, it’s inevitable that filmmakers explore this new technology to hook their plot-line on to – though normally in a negative manner. Such is the case with Blank – an sf thriller set in the near future.
Claire Rivers (Rachel Shelley, The L Word) is a successful writer – problem is she is being hounded for her follow up book and she has a rather large case of writer’s block. Her agent is chasing her to complete and she has unpaid bills piling up.
With a deadline of a month, she decides the only thing she can do, so as not to lose her publishing deal, is to head to a high tech facility to cut herself off from the outside world and get her head down and write.
So off she goes to the flashy and remote retreat and finds herself alone in the big house except for a virtual holographic butler (Wayne Brady), who she decides to call Henry, plus an android assistant in the shape of Rita (Heida Reed) – who acts like a 50s housewife as she tends to Claire’s every need.
She is also given a device which is supposed to stimulate her creativity – though none of it seems to help her put her thoughts down on paper as she ends up quaffing wine and scrunching up everything she writes.
Of course it isn’t long before things start to go awry – malware spreads into the system running both the house and her robotic helper, with everything beginning to glitch and becoming progressively faulty – Claire finds herself trapped with the malfunctioning Rita refusing to let her leave unless she finishes her novel.
Playing out like a stretched out episode of The Twilight Zone (or Black Mirror for our younger readers!) this would have been more effective as a short than a feature film. The best part here is Heida Reed as the, at first, friendly automaton aide who becomes more frightening as her programming goes wrong and she starts to malfunction.
Shelley is okay, if not exceptional, in the central role, veering to the histrionic and whilst the story has its moments it never fully engages, with several sections quite dull. A passable, rather drawn out, cyber thriller time filler – nothing more.