On paper, Aaron Barnes is apparently successful, a computer programmer specialising in artificial intelligence who has worked with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, yet personally he is a disaster; handsome and well-groomed yet utterly helpless with interpersonal dynamics, so unable to function beyond his refined skillset that he takes cue-cards on a first date to guide his interactions alongside his emotional support teddy bear Eddie.
Predictably bereft of second dates, instead Aaron uses his skills as a programmer and roboticist to create a suitable match whom he names Emma, developing her through call and response interactions, moving beyond basic input and output until his creation outgrows the relationship cul-de-sac in which he exists, but despite having been ostensibly designed by Aaron the path of Emma’s development does not follow his expectation.
An atypical tale of Boy Makes Girl, Mark Elias writes, produces, stars as Aaron and co-directs with Mark David, making him largely responsible for what is at heart an interesting if not particularly original idea played before in Susan Seidelman’s Making Mr Right and Spike Jonze’s Her but also for the failings which miss the mark as badly as Aaron’s awkward efforts at seduction.
The early scenes repeating iterations of rejection, unlike the similarly socially awkward protagonist of James vs His Future Self there is no indication that Aaron has the capacity for improvement or that he is essentially misunderstood, making inappropriate comments to near strangers while building a woman in his basement proving the accusation that he is a fundamentally creepy individual who has not been helped by twelve years of therapy.
Emma (Meeghan Holaway) learning from her mistakes and adapting her behaviour, Aaron does not and nor is he a good role model, obsessive and short-tempered when he is contradicted or his plans go astray; his sole champion Geneva (Saundra McClain), sympathetic and forgiving, it is no surprise that Emma finds a more productive friendship with her, while a meeting with the unpredictable and often irritable Ben (Paul Dooley) only prompts jealousy from Aaron, emphasising the fundamental flaw in his presumptive roles of parent, teacher and intended lover.
Feeling as though it is the product of a badly adjusted algorithm populated by the hurt feelings of privileged white men and never functioning as intended, the digressions into gambling and Ben’s estranged daughter presumably meant to add excitement and emotion but doing neither, Boy Makes Girl is as misguided as Aaron’s attempts to justify working for the NRA; for a similar thought experiment told with more humour, genuine humanity and a joyful soundtrack, instead seek out Steve Barron’s Electric Dreams.
Boy Makes Girl is available on digital download now