The Human Equation

Eva - 2011
Directed by Kike Maillo
See link for writing team

Eva is a Spanish science-fiction film in a class similar to the likes of Her... or About Time.  While the fiction is based in a scientific conceit, it's not about the "sci-fi."  There are no laser battles, no one-dimensional villains.  It's about human behavior in the context of the impact of technology.

Young and ridiculously good-looking robotics protege, Alex Garel returns to his hometown after a ten year absence, stirring up all kinds of emotional conflict within and between him, his brother, his ex (now married to his brother) and his mentor.  Despite his brilliance, Alex has left a trail of unfinished projects and hurt feelings in his wake.  It's one of those projects that draws him back to the university.  His goal is to design a free-willed robotic child.  To get an exceptional robot, he needs to find an exceptional child upon which to base the personality profile.

Now, there wouldn't be much of a movie if he didn't find one.  The one he finds is Eva, a precocious and energetic 10-year old.  At their first meeting, she teases him about being a pervert for his interest in her.  She challenges his expectations and he finds himself fascinated by her, both professionally and personally.  The fascination is deepened once he discovers that Eva is the daughter of his ex-girlfriend and his brother.

Eva's mother, Lana, is a robotics professor and recognizes his interest.  She pleads with him not to pursue the matter (perhaps too forcefully) and he agrees, but Eva has become fascinated with him as well.  As they spend time together, questions about the past creep in, old feelings arise, and Alex entertains thoughts about the road not taken.

While Daniel Brühl is tasked with much of the heavy-lifting in the role of Alex, the movie wouldn't work without first-time actress Claudia Vega selling the idea of Eva as exceptional.  She's charismatic and precocious, waking up the narrative from Alex's disaffected melancholia whenever she's on screen.

This is also director Kike Maillo's first feature film, and he keeps it thoughtful but constantly engaging.  Everything on the screen is beautiful, from the actors to the snowy mountain town to the technology.

Having seen a few Spanish films recently, I've noticed that they look just like American films, except everyone is prettier.  The robotic technology of 2041 takes on a variety of forms.  Some are based on current experimental robotics.  Some look like extras from the Jawa scenes in Star Wars.  Many mimic organic forms including those that are thoroughly human in appearance.

The visual design of the computer tech may be completely illogical, but it's all for the sake of beauty.  The holographic interface resembles raindrops in a spiderweb, and individual apps spin in the air like glass tops.  Alex's personality programs bob and twirl in the air, echoing Jim Woodring's enigmatic jivas, which reflect the forms in Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur themselves.

Eva is an intriguing and involving science-fiction for grown-ups.  It's filled with beauty, but perhaps its greatest special effect is its humanity, and a debut performance that infuses the whole thing with life. 

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