Review by Chris Olson
Existing in the digital age, the population is offered an explosion of choice everywhere they turn. Consuming popular culture is not only instantaneously gratifying these days, it is also heartbreakingly shallow. With the advent of streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, cultural products such as movies and TV box sets are simply fuel for our ever-increasing stimulus-stomach. Deep Learning, a short film written and directed by (and also starring) Matthew Ferrara, takes a wickedly funny poke at society’s shameful attitude towards visual mediums, whilst throwing in a tried and tested tale of AI-gone-Oh-No.
With an alarm on his iPhone to tell him when to stop working, and a solitary meal of pasta for one, Matthew (Ferrara) sets himself up for the evening under his duvet about to watch something on from his Webflix subscription - shamelessly dressed up in Netflix’s colours. When a robot voice greets Matthew, and reveals an updated version of the system he uses, our protagonist barely notices, blissfully unquestioning of the “auto-update” lifestyle of the modern age. As the artificial intelligence berates Matthew in search of the perfect viewing suggestion, a strong theme of cultural ignorance/hypocrisy reveals itself, as Matt, when offered a string of high-brow options, would simply prefer to re-watch Thor 2 so he can fall asleep to it!
There is a slickness to Ferrara’s direction, and a potency to his delivery, that makes Deep Learning a formidable short film. The opening sequences that show Matthew’s comfortable and relatable lifestyle are done with some impressing framing, in particular a birds-eye-view shot of a popcorn maker, that reveal the artistry behind the camera.
The script is painfully funny, a beautiful contrast existing between Matt’s goofball antics and the AI’s dwindling patience. Given the relevance of the story and the small moments of acute observation, Deep Learning gives a master class to other filmmakers looking to deliver short film gold.
The lead performance is far from mesmerizing. Matt’s character is an every-man in his pyjamas, but there was little meat and bone to his portrayal. It may be that a comedy line was being more strongly pursued, but there was definitely room to squeeze in some drama there too. The AI (voiced by Tony Pacitti) was very well done though - reminiscent of a new age Hal.
Formidable filmmaking with incisive cultural commentary, Deep Learning is a short film that dishes out the lessons on how to poke fun at ourselves, whilst being ultra stylish in the process…Now I’m off to watch all the episodes of The Sopranos whilst I eat brownies in my pants and simultaneously troll Hilary Clinton.
Watch the movie below: