Do androids dream of electric sheep? Not only did this saying become popular in reference to the title of Phillip K. Dick’s 1968 dystopian novel, but also enforced the augmentation of humane as opposed to artificial intelligence. Films such as Blade Runner (an adaptation of Dick’s novel), Ex-Machina, and Her have all deeply explored the thematic elements of the hypothetical’ Hard Problem’, which is in reference to the psychological study of how and why we experience phenomena. As we in our current age further push for a greater understanding of the human experience in relation to something manmade, it allows for artists as well to explore their own beliefs and creativity, and this is aptly thematic in the feature debut for the Director duo, hazart, in the appropriately named A Hard Problem.
Following the death of his Mother (Tacey Adams), Ian (Johnny Berchtold), a quiet younger man, is tasked by his seemingly abrasive sister and her colleagues with packing up the belongings of the home. While the job seems simple at first, Ian begins to realize that he is no longer welcomed around specific places such as the hospital where his Mother was taken, or even the funeral home during her service. Because of this, and the strain he begins to experience in relation to his sister, Lisa (Jennifer Hasty), Ian searches for answers within his Mother’s belonging, and slowly discovers an uncomfortable truth about himself, a twist I can honestly say I did not expect, and one that will have viewer’s asking questions throughout that are slowly unraveled in the 109-minute runtime.
hazart complete an intricate narrative by using a very unstructured process, enforcing the use of flashbacks to paint the picture of the story. I can honestly say that the direction the film went, and the way in which the narrative is explored is so interesting, I could not help but admire the slick editing by Jeremy Floyd and fascinating concepts.
The Follow Contains Spoilers.
A Hard Problem is presumably set a number of decades in the future, and a company called Qualia has developed a new system of artificial intelligence, a type of rebirth if you will. When a loved one looses someone close to them they have the opportunity to incorporate memories and data of an individual into a computerized clone of the deceased called Parallels. This is revealed to Ian when he cannot access digital files because he cannot “see” them, as he was not designated to. The story begins to take an interesting twist when the viewer figures out that Ian’s sister is trying to find Ian’s actual ashes, and you see why she has such a strained relationship with her “reborn” brother.
The entire idea of calling these clones Parralels may seem a little on-the-nose, however, parallels and duality are the central theme of the film, and this is shown through countless closeups of dual objects such as the pieces on a Backgammon board. The ways in which hazart utilize this theme is extremely intricate, to the point where you may at times feel as though you are experiencing an OCD-feverdream. A Hard Problem will have you questioning just how far, and how deeply an individual may loose sight of reality when experiencing loss. The film demonstrates such a great thought-process when it comes to the idea of grief, without spending an inordinate amount of time and losing focus on the interest.
There are a few moments where special effects are used, particularly at the end, and they are incredibly impressive and well executed, to the point where I had to actually pause because I thought some of it may have been practical. Once again, another elements of the film that is further benefitted from impressive editing. The only major issue I could find with the film is that sometimes you can find yourself getting lost in the timeline of events, however, some interesting color-grading techniques do attempt to alieviate the issue.
A Hard Problem really does force the issue on the viewer as to what makes us human, and how we approach change, or lack there of, in moments of desperation. While many will argue the immoral decision made by Qualia and the individuals whom approach them, you can easily sympathize and understand the burden of having to lose someone, and why that pain may push one to go in the direction that they have. It is a dilemma I did not expect given a feature-debut for hazart. Smart thematic elements, creative editing, and a impressively nuanced performance by Johnny Berchtold give A Hard Problem a leg-up on many films that tackle the issue of artificial intelligence, making it one of the most unique in the science fiction genre. This is one that will not be forgotten very easily.
Score: 9 / 10
Here’s the official trailer: