What could possibly go wrong in a movie where a grieving lawman brings home an AI robot who looks exactly like his dead wife? Pretty much everything, if the director is someone like James Bird and the movie is something like Wifelike. The movie, which has just dropped on Netflix, is not only terrible in terms of its technical craft; it is extremely problematic as well. Barring the performance of its lead actress, Elena Kampouris, nothing can save this atrocity. In case you have been unfortunate enough to go through this confusing mess of a movie, here’s an explainer for you.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens in the Movie?
It is hard to make any sense out of a screenplay that seems like it was written by a toddler but let us just get it over with. In the near future, a company named Wifelike is making these AI robots, which they call “companions.” What does a companion do? Well, her only task is to please men who can afford to buy her by being the perfect wife. Yeah, we get that you are trying to take a jibe at patriarchy, but thanks to the writing, it seems more like a wish-fulfillment fantasy of the director.
Who is William, and what does he want?
I was almost tempted to phrase the question as “What is William?” considering the answer happens to be an expressionless Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Not that Meyers ever had the reputation of being a great actor, but in the hands of the right kind of director, the actor always flourished. That is clearly not the case here, as the character of William, who plays a human, has absolutely no expression, to the point that he could be passed off as a robot. Anyway, William works for the “Wifelike” company, and his task is to rescue companions, mainly from an apparently “evil” AI rights organization that goes by the name SCAIR, aka “Sentient Citizens for Artificial Intelligence Rights.” William is predictably the best among these saviors, while his colleague Jack is a close second.
Who is Meredith, and what does she want?
Meredith is Williams’ AI wife, modeled after his human wife, who also went by the same name. It is a reward to William from Wifelike top boss Marion Venter for all his great work. Venter is basically the love child of Andrew Tate and Elon Musk; that’s all you need to know.
At the start of the film, it seems like William has just brought AI Meredith home, and she is getting accustomed to her new life where she is supposed to play the role of perfect wife to our white male savior. However, it soon becomes clear that Meredith’s memory has been wiped for some reason, and this entire thing has happened before. And no, I wouldn’t consider this clever because it is presented in such a confusing manner that you keep questioning your sanity. Coming back to the story, AI Meredith is currently merging with the brain of human Meredith and finding her groove. She is also serving a healthy breakfast to her husband while he looks at the television, which keeps showing the violence that is being spread by SCAIR. William is unhappy about not getting served his favorite bacon by his perfect AI wife, thanks to Wifelike’s policy of a companion not harming her owner, and you can’t deny the harm that comes with a delicious slice of deep-fried bacon.
What is the main conflict?
We don’t really see much of that, thanks to the director thinking the runtime would be put to better use showing off a lot of intimate stuff between William and AI Meredith, from bedroom to shower. Gotta give it to this man who’s trying to make something as fascinating as Blade Runner, as cool as Minority Report, and as cerebral as Ex Machina, as well as an erotic thriller. So anyway, there is this person called “The Ringmaster,” who is the leader of SCAIR and basically a ghost. William and co. can’t track him down, so their worries keep increasing. What SCAIR is basically doing is copying the climax of Ex Machina, i.e., reprogramming the Companions after kidnapping them and trying to conjure up an AI revolution against Wifelike, who are clearly the flag bearers of patriarchy and capitalism, but for most of the film’s runtime Bird presents the Wifelike people as the good guys, albeit unintentionally. Interestingly, from whatever little of human Meredith we see, who has different hair from AI Meredith, she was vocally against Wifelike and the exploitation of AIs. In fact, her first meeting with William happens to be Meredith asking the man to sign a petition against what Wifelike is doing. The obvious question is, then, how did these two end up together?
Meanwhile, AI Meredith keeps seeing this shiny mask-wearing man both in the real world and in her programmed dream. She also comes across random underbaked characters like these twins, Lady and Lydie; a woman named Louise who keeps telling her to remember; and this guy named Keene, who doesn’t reveal his face until the final act, and the mention of Keene really spooks William.
Who Is The Ringmaster? Does Meredith manage to uncover the conspiracy?
William reaches the conclusion that this Keene person has hacked into AI Meredith, and the only way to fix that is to delete her memory and start afresh. But before that, William plans to take care of Keene. How is he going to do that? By giving a tribute to Chris Nolan, obviously. Because why write something original when William can just enter AI Meredith’s dream and eliminate Keene?
However, Jack tries to convince William not to do such a thing because, despite working for a company like Wifelike, Jack has a conscience. But alpha male William can’t do beta-like things, so he has to do what he has to do. Just before killing Keene inside AI Meredith’s dream, she wakes up because William himself asked her to wake up when her battery hit 10 percent. Uh, shouldn’t they have charged her before starting the whole thing?
During Wifelike‘s ending, it becomes quite evident that William is no good guy. All that is left is the actual reveal, and Bird just decides to do it abruptly as he is in a hurry to wrap things up. So William is basically an obsessed incel who just saw a girl and decided to go all crazy on her, which involved eliminating Keene, the man she loved. But no matter what he did, Meredith wouldn’t love him back, so he did exactly what you would expect him to do—smother Meredith to death. And bring home the AI Meredith. But the SCAIR organization people did manage to somehow put the memories of actual Meredith in AI Meredith, and despite wiping it again and again, it did come back to bite in the end. The only cool twist the film could come up with has to be revealing AI Meredith as the Ringmaster. It is not a man’s world anymore, thankfully. But obviously, Wifelike is not going to stop, so they end up pitting AI William against The Ringmaster and planting seeds for a sequel, which I really hope doesn’t become a reality.