A mysterious robot is sent to an unhappy couple. It forces them to face their issues. | The Purchase

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  • Published on:  Thursday, April 27, 2023
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    The Purchase is used with permission from Patrick Townsend. Learn more at https://omele.to/3HlPD50.

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    Liz and Shane are a couple that share a house, but not much else anymore. They've recently hit some conflict, with Shane being hostile and refusing to talk to Liz, and Liz is left on her own emotionally to deal with her feelings.

    When their smart device's algorithmically-driven automatic shopping service sends Liz a very questionable purchase, the item dredges up past conflicts, old grievances and current discontent. As the purchase proves more and more difficult to send back -- or keep quiet -- Liz and Shane must confront the simmering discontent in their relationship and decide what to do next.

    Directed and written by Patrick Townsend, this sci-fi short is both an incisive, intriguing examination of how algorithms could penetrate the more private and emotional corners of our daily lives and a portrait of a disintegrating marriage falling apart from resentment and an inability to communicate honestly. Even with certain moments of levity, it's thought-provoking, well-crafted and intelligently wrought on both accounts, making for an unusually emotionally resonant cautionary tale.

    The world-building is smart, subtle and witty, and the central premise of an unexpected purchase sent from an automatic shopping service is executed well here, essentially "leveling up" elements we're already familiar with -- smart devices, drones, eerily intuitive shopping services -- with inventive and judicious special effects.

    The excellent storytelling has some fun with the shopping service's automatic purchase for Liz, which is a lifelike robot companion named Ted, who is supposed to provide intimacy on all levels. As Ted, actor Bruce Guo hits the comic flourishes well, with an eager-to-please frankness, and he surprisingly understands Liz well and shares many of her tastes, thanks to the algorithm that sent it to Liz.

    The heart of the film, though, is the disintegrating relationship between Liz and Shane, who are still struggling with a betrayal. The past information has been woven into the storytelling throughout, but the arrival of Ted forces the pair to confront not just the cheating that happened, but the conditions of the relationship that led to the breaking point. Ted's personalized programming as Liz's ideal companion also forces them to face what both have been missing in their relationship. Actors Taylor Buoro and Mitch Wright as Liz and Shane convey the raw, wounded vulnerability as husband and wife confront their deepest feelings, and the dialogue is both painfully intimate and realistic. It's a "State of the Union" discussion that they've avoided, but Ted's arrival has forced their hand.

    Smart, well-crafted and deeply felt, "The Purchase" ends on a heartwrenching note, one that demonstrates its deepest insight into the intersection of technology and human life. Algorithms have become more embedded in everyday life, thanks to our interactions with smartphones and other connected devices, and they have become ever more perceptive about human behaviors and desires. They make shopping convenient; they serve us the entertainment we might like; they suggest potential dates; they help optimize our health. But the mysteries and inner workings of human attachment, in the form of love and partnership, still elude them -- as they have eluded humans themselves for as long as they've existed.

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    A mysterious robot is sent to an unhappy couple. It forces them to face their issues. | The Purchase
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  • Source: https://youtu.be/qqXUJelWDFY
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