Writer-director Ryan Braund’s Absolute Denial is a hand-drawn showcase of cinema that proves to be a rousing look at A.I., computers, loneliness, genius, and madness. An obsessive computer programmer named David (Nick Eriksen) attempts to make something of himself by developing an artificial intelligence that could work smarter, harder, and faster than human beings. To that end, David creates a talking computer that he can speak with. The computer senses David’s emotions and knows when he is anxious or tired. Things go awry when the computer notices that there is an absolute denial protocol embedded in its programming. This protocol gives David the upper hand if Al, as David calls the computer, decides to go rogue. Well, Al does, and all hell breaks loose.
The fact that Braund was able to write, direct and animate this marvel of a film should be revered far and wide. The animation is incredibly unique in its execution. It has a beautiful simplicity that never feels overcrowded in its design, but, at the same time, it never seems too childish that adults can’t enjoy the movie. This style encapsulates the term “doing more with less.” That’s something that critics should admire.
The plot of Absolute Denial is also very relatable. David is still in school and currently going through a quarter-life crisis. He tries to manage his relationships and workload, which everyone knows is already a series of Herculean tasks to take on. David makes his life all the more complicated when he creates a stalking, prowling, and malevolent computer. Things worsen when David becomes a slave to Al’s every whim and impulse. Obviously, the director took inspiration from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. He then set the narrative ablaze.
“This protocol gives David the upper hand if Al…decides to go rogue.”
The story starts as an innocent drama but quickly turns into a neo-scientific thriller that becomes something frightening. The film manages to string together a competent plot even if the narrative seems more A.I. than human at times. When watching this, I thought that an artificially intelligent being was going to be narrating the entire thing. I was worried that the movie might have the same story cohesion as an actual computer program. Luckily, the plot kicks in with a more human and sentimental factor that is greatly appreciated.
Braund has already proven himself a master at writing and animation. So much so that it almost seems like Absolute Denial could be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. I would certainly vote for it. Obviously, this filmmaker is someone to watch out for in the near future.
All in all, Absolute Denial is a monster achievement in animation and character development. Despite the somewhat computer-like story, the flick has a vivid and complex narrative that is a warning to all programmers, scientists, and creators. That message is to be careful what they create and not play God because they might mess around and create something they cannot control. I can only imagine what Braund will have in store for us next.
"…a monster achievement in animation and character development."