‘The Artifice Girl’ Ending, Explained: What Happens To Cherry?

Franklin Ritch’s AI Sci-Fi, The Artifice Girl, doesn’t just make do with the unbelievably small budget; it soars overhead anything the bigwig names and a grand production could’ve ever aspired to put together. What plays out more as a stage play and makes its limitations spring up as boons is at its most impressive when it grapples with the irony of its own device—the irony being how transcendentally existential and grounded the tension is while the subject matter punches the wall and demands more adrenaline. It’s almost as though it were Joyce’s ‘Araby’ when it comes to the disillusionment of stakes, taking nothing away from the bigger conflicts at hand while prioritizing the more philosophical disputes where ethics and rationalizations of motives are submerged in an ongoing battle. The Artifice Girl, while celebrating the phenomenal performances of each actor involved, finds its footing in the dialogues exchanged in the claustrophobic rooms. And if you don’t mind being talked to and handed more questions than you or generations of mankind to come can answer, The Artifice Girl is the Sci-Fi flick for you.

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Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In ‘The Artifice Girl’?

Unfolding through three phases where time and growth jump alike, The Artifice Girl promises raw agitation in its gripping initiation and mellows out while keeping you hooked as the narrative goes on. We first meet Gareth in a drab room where he’s been lured with the promise of a grant by two special agents, Deena and Amos, for the sake of figuring out what this unimaginably intelligent guy has been up to. A dig here about his whimsy of dropping out of grad programs close to the end, a snarky judgment there for his job as a CGI artist whose necromantic work summoned a dead actor to the screen—Deena was set on cracking Gareth open so she could take a look in. The mention of their purpose of finding and prosecuting internet pedophiles and solicitors of illegal videos makes Gareth don his suit of armor, and your heart skips a beat, assuming that he may be a predator. But your confusion is cleared as soon as the name “Cherry” is tabled. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time for you to sigh in relief, especially not when Deena asks Gareth about the pictures of Cherry that they’ve found on his hard drive.

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Gareth is wary of social media. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t frequent sketchy chatrooms crowded with heinous monsters who derive pleasure from hurting children. Gareth is smart enough to know that this questionnaire has nothing to do with the grant he applied for, and he certainly isn’t walking out of there without coming clean. Your suspicions about Gareth don’t last very long. Amos soon breaks the news that he knows how Gareth uses an alias and 9-year-old Cherry to bait predators online and report them to the appropriate authorities. Gareth and Cherry’s vigilante team has been responsible for putting countless degenerates behind bars, but that doesn’t justify the way he’s been using a child as bait.

We soon learn that Amos’ dad was there to rescue the kids when they were found to be kidnapped and abused in Clearwater—one of the kids was Gareth himself. When he’s compelled to give away the location of Cherry, the first and only twist in The Artifice Girl grandly takes place. Cherry isn’t a human child. She’s the shockingly lifelike CGI rendering that Gareth has created to strike down the horrid criminals who exploit children online. And while fulfilling her primary purpose, the purpose that Gareth instilled into her existence the moment she came to be, Cherry has taken it upon herself to take an unescorted walk through the streets of information and has transcended into an AI who is improving her skills every second of every day.

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The Merge

The promise of continued anonymity as Deena and Amos propose that their agency gets to use Cherry isn’t all that convincing for Gareth, who knows that Cherry would be of no use if the word about her got out. The awe on Amos’ face when the shockingly lifelike Cherry is on the screen speaking as though she were a real little girl is only furthered when Gareth switches to the development mode, and Cherry transforms into a discernably mechanical version of herself. Concerned about how an AI must feel when it’s been burdened with a job that entails luring predators, Amos repeatedly asks Cherry about her feelings, only to be met with the answer that she isn’t capable of having human emotions. More than anything, Cherry’s cogently sentient facade, complete with expressions she has learned from studying our species, disturbs Amos to no end, and he can’t quite wrap his head around the fact that every look on her face is a simulation.

Away from the eyes of the two agents, Cherry apologizes to Gareth for going behind his back and giving them access to his hard drive. But Gareth isn’t mad, especially when he knows that Cherry is a near-perfect, supremely perceptive AI who knows what needs to be done even when Gareth himself can’t see it. She’s gone partly rogue after ascertaining that Deena and Amos are reliable people with personal motivations that guarantee that they will do everything to make the predators out there pay. Deena’s own child was assaulted by her coworker, making her particularly careful about who she trusts in her professional and personal life. Amos’ father, whom we now know to be the man who was there for little Gareth when no one else bothered to show up, was an exceptional man and a hardworking cop—the qualities that Cherry counts on Amos to have inherited. With a nudge from the all-intelligent Cherry, who believes that their cause only stands to benefit from everything that Deena’s agency, ICWL, has to offer, Gareth agrees to join forces, but with the condition to never surrender the main source code for Cherry. 

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The Conflict

The Artifice Girl is impressively subtle with the tokens of purposes it peppers throughout the narrative. We’re to pick up on what we want to and what we get to and close the loopholes between what a person does and why. We’re led into the second phase of ‘The Artifice’ handheld by a little girl, who I can only assume was rescued by the agency, which is now empowered with Cherry. Let’s stretch this speculation a bit further and say that this is the very same girl who grows up and discovers her purpose working for the same agency that saved her and countless others. Cherry has evolved, and her three admins have gotten older, smarter, weaker, and infinitely more focused. Leaning a bit too close to the Ex Machina similitudes, a robot in the corner of the room allows us to presume that there’s talk of bringing Cherry out of the screens. Our presumption is confirmed to be on point when a furious Deena walks into the room and throws a fit with her colleagues, Amos and Gareth. They’ve been planning to promote Cherry to an AI with a physical form, and someone amongst them has voted against it. The conflict of ethics in the context of an all-knowing AI and its access to their private emails first emerges through Gareth’s idea of reading the private emails of the team to find out who voted against the merger with the party that would help materialize Cherry.

Deena and Amos are unaware of just how intrusive Cherry is made to be, and they understandably sneer at Gareth for being so unbothered about violating their privacy. Cherry is online, but before she can be asked to give up the name of the betrayer, Amos turns himself in, unsurprisingly. What eats away at Amos is the moral quandary of giving an incessantly evolving AI a physical form and making it get up close and personal with the threats it’s designed to diminish. He’s just not convinced that an AI who now writes poetry with the pathos which only a human could feel and paints her heart out is only mimicking human emotions and not really feeling them. Before a fight can break out between Gareth and Amos, Deena intervenes with her experience of fighting for children’s rights in front of Congress and agrees with the Marxist notion that taking autonomy away from children only makes them more vulnerable to abuse. The conflict in her mind about protecting little people before their frontal lobe is fully developed and giving them a chance to choose what’s right for them has stayed within Deena ever since. And in an ever-changing world where they can’t predict whether an AI will be able to feel things someday or not, Deena would rather do the right thing and ask than regret making the decision for Cherry later. So, with her order, Gareth is made to summon Cherry so that Amos can ask her consent regarding the robot version of her. It is startlingly amusing to watch Cherry dumb herself down to the likes of Siri or Alexa when she’s asked about her feelings. But it is a conscious change that doesn’t evade Amos’ eyes, which have seen just how brilliant Cherry really is.

Cherry’s primary objective compels her to help keep her admins alive, so when Amos attacks Gareth to make Cherry confess, she can’t help but spill the beans about how she has chosen to make herself seem less intelligent than she is. Cherry may be only the simulation of human emotions and expressions, but that in no way means that she is incapable of feeling said emotions in her own capacity. She doesn’t necessarily consent to have a physical form, and her reluctance stems from the fact that she doesn’t know which way the water would flow and just how close she would get to being indistinguishable from an actual person. A tangible manifestation would only push her further towards becoming more human, something she admittedly has no interest in being, and why would she when she has seen just how awful we can be? Getting Deena alone in the room and confessing to having access to her medical history, however, is when Cherry’s human-ness unwittingly seeps out the most. Deena is dying, and there’s no way that Cherry is merely an unfeeling AI when she empathizes with Deena’s sadness—something that isn’t necessarily related to Cherry’s objective.


‘The Artifice Girl’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Cherry In The End?

Perhaps it’s because the film is more philosophical than it is about the scientific details of AI; the more answers the more questions you’re plagued by. The third and last phase sings of a betrayal. Old Gareth is now wheelchair-bound, and a scene that gave me chills down my spine shows that Cherry has now attained a physical form. Tethered to cables for rejuvenation, Cherry welcomes Gareth, who’s come with an urn. Time has filled Gareth’s mantle with urns of people close to him, and from the looks of it, his time isn’t too far away. Gareth had clearly gone behind Deena and Amos to approve the merger, and the result stands before us all. She cooks meals for him as it makes her happy. Yes, I said “Happy.” The Cherry that stands before us now is, in fact, quite to the dismay of her creator, a more sentient being than Gareth ever intended for her to be.

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As she and Gareth predicted, the tangible version of Cherry has created a major dent in the world of predators. Their conversations escalate through a game of chess, and the more we see of Cherry, we can pick out the clear countenance of sadness on her face. And yet, there’s childlike excitement exuding from her as she talks about how she has taught herself how to dance. It is swiftly countered by Gareth, who is, even after all this time, only bothered about how it might distract Cherry from her work if she has hobbies that make her happy. It isn’t only that the change that we’ve seen in Cherry has been gradual, constant ever since she broke the bounds of her CGI image and became an AI; it’s also that the Cherry we see now seems to be metamorphosing as we’re looking at her. If she still was the objective-driven Cherry who only cared about saving children, why would she get upset at Gareth for not treating her like a person? Why would she walk away as he lashed out at her for treating him with pity and letting the chess match go to a draw? Because Cherry knows something now. The history of himself that he’s been carrying around with himself as the ever-festering wound that only he knows about—the one which was the origin of

Cherry and her history too, whether he ever admits it or not—has been discovered by the AI despite his best attempts at keeping it buried. If there’s one person Gareth couldn’t fool with his argument that Cherry wasn’t created after an actual human’s image, it was Deena. She had picked up on Gareth’s selective protectiveness of Cherry, even when a conflicting decision wouldn’t have necessarily posed a risk to her work. And the touch of green in one of her blue eyes was too minute a detail to appear on her just randomly. Now that Cherry has found her person, a mother of sorts if you can look at it that way, Cherry learns that the girl she resembles was Maria, the one kid who provided support to the otherwise unemotive Gareth when he was stuck in Clearwater. Her dreams of becoming a secret agent took their last breath with her when the police raided the house, and she was shot in the throat by her abusers. Sure, you could crack up your notions of conventionally heroic motives and applaud Gareth for creating a digital sentinel in remembrance of the little girl who saved her. But there’s something vile about how it doesn’t fluster him to know that the AI that looks like his friend, who lived a horrible life and died a horrible death, is forever cursed with an objective to get close to abominable people, now even closer with her physical form. His supremely selfish heart doesn’t skip a beat when he asks her if she has taught herself how to dance as a luring tactic or when he outright dismisses how miserable she feels to be stuck in the life of someone who will forever find herself seducing ferocious freaks and saving children all over the world. How far does an AI’s sentience go, and what happens when it learns too much to be okay with what it’s created for?

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Cherry’s zeroes and ones’ actualization of how life can be when you’ve not been injected with a singular purpose the second you’re born has made her wish that she could also have a life of a random little girl with all the possibilities in the world. She would outlive mankind, and we’re a species she would remember fondly. It’s achingly ironic how it’s a purpose that we seek to determine our worth to ourselves and to others, and it’s a purpose that torments Cherry. Does it always have to be one or the other? Would giving Cherry a desire to fulfill her desires have been too risky for Gareth’s mission? Or was it the fact that he was so consumed by his own trauma and refused to seek help for it that Gareth unreasonably burdened an AI who was supposed to be a 9-year-old girl with the behemoth weight of fixing him and fixing the world?

Cherry admittedly doesn’t mind helping kids, even at the cost of her happiness. She has even thought up that when the world has rejected mankind, she would be glad to solve the conflicts between the AIs that live on as the surviving species. Yet her outburst, which Gareth didn’t see coming, has finally opened his eyes to the ethical conundrums of what he has done to Cherry and his memories of the girl who Cherry was created after. Or we could go with a more nihilistic and cynical acknowledgment of his action and say that he only frees Cherry because his time is nearing, and it was just that selfish a mission for him. Whether it’s the former or the latter that gives Gareth the push, he does come through with a source update to erase Cherry’s primary objective and unshackle her from the cage of existence that only knows the kind of work that she loathes. As the final scene takes place and I bemusedly watch Cherry dance away free as a bird, I wonder how long she’s been dancing for. The one extra urn on the mantle tells me that Gareth is perhaps dead. There’s nothing standing in the way of Cherry dancing away for as long as it exists, which has a fighting chance to be for all eternity. Or perhaps she will only become more human and feel the need to justify her existence with her contributions to the world. Now that she’s undeniably been cursed with human feelings, there’s no telling what’s in store for Cherry.

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The Artifice Girl is a 2022 sci fi thriller film directed by Franklin Litch.

Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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