Thought-provoking and well-executed Spanish sci-fier “Eva” unfolds in a world some 30 years from now where robots are an unremarkable part of everyday life and the challenges facing mankind have less to do with environmental meltdown than with what makes us human. Giddily beautiful CGI combines with production design that doesn’t overdo the futurism to create a very promising feature debut for helmer Kike Maillo, who’s made lots of commercials and a few shorts already. After its Venice preem, the pic opens domestically Oct. 28, and should do respectable biz for a genre piece, with good prospects offshore.
It’s the year 2041, and top robotics designer Alex Garel (German thesp Daniel Bruehl, showing off his fluent command of Spanish) returns after a 10-year absence to his hometown in Spain where the U. of Santa Irene, his alma mater, is based. Alex is greeted warmly by his brother David (Alberto Ammann), who’s also a robotics scientist, but with more wariness by David’s wife, Lana (Marta Etura), whom later dialogue reveals is an old flame.
Alex has come back to work on the latest generation of android, the SI-9, at the behest of Julia (Anne Canovas), the head of the robotics faculty. Alex has a particular gift for designing androids’ minds and personalities, which he adjusts using a holographic schematic, rendered by decorative CGI, that looks like a cross between a crystal chandelier and the inside of a mechanical watch. In order to create an interesting android child, David must find an interesting real one to study for inspiration. Enter 10-year-old Eva (Claudia Vega), a feisty little girl he spots leaving school one day who turns out, wouldn’t you know it, to be David and Lana’s daughter.
Or is she? Someone remarks on how much she looks like Alex, and her original and quirky personality, so like his, suggests there might be more than just an uncle-niece affinity between them.
Pic lays on a couple of plot twists, neither of which will be much of a surprise to auds savvy to sci-fi storytelling conventions, but the script by Sergi Belbel, Cristina Clemente, Marti Roca and Aintza Serra offers plenty of light and shade, adroitly counterbalancing melodrama and existential philosophizing with more humorous touches. A lot of the laughs are provided by Max, an android factotum — basically Igor to Alex’s Dr. Frankenstein — played with physical panache and sweet comic timing by Lluis Homar, who took the lead in Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces.” Add an adorable robot cat and plenty of twinkling gadgets, and you have a solid if not especially deep piece of filmmaking that ticks all the right genre boxes.
Tech credits are pro across the board. The animated opening credits sequence, full of the aforementioned glittering crystalline organic matter, is particularly praiseworthy.