Directed by Justin Boon and Ryan Ng Starring Chloe Kay Short Film Review by Owen Herman
The idea of true artificial intelligence has been used throughout cinema, to greater or lesser success. Sci-fi films have incorporated AI in several unique ways, but none as unique as Justin Boon and Ryan Ng’s short film Sonova.
A beautiful opening prologue, recounting the collapse of humanity until it is saved by T.A.I. (True Artificial Intelligence), gives the viewer the semblance of a normal narrative. However, the short moves away from conventional narrative structure to provide more of an explorative experience. The film enters the mind of Sonova, a mysterious figure that appears to be the next stage of human evolution, as she begins to discover her humanity. Recognition of normal household objects seemingly sparks feelings and memories within Sonova, as she realises her senses in a child-like manner. She attempts to separate herself from T.A.I. in a move towards independence and, possibly, freedom. The result is an intriguing series of ideas that provoke questions, not just of the story, but of the ideas of humanity and A.I. themselves.
Much of the film is presented through the eyes of Sonova, presenting a minimal yet richly detailed heads-up display. As Chloe Kay’s voiceover continues, conversations between Sonova and T.A.I. appear on screen to provide even more depth to this puzzling narrative. What you make of both characters and everything you see on screen is left to you. Sonova allows and even encourages you to form your own thoughts about what you are seeing, just as Sonova herself is doing. The animation is both beautiful and intelligent, and is a joy to behold. Its style really engages the viewer and makes the world and its technology feel real. All the sci-fi elements appear to be inspired by previous science fiction greats, but still feel new and fresh. The sound is also stunning. Chloe Kay’s voiceover is haunting and the music evokes feelings of a bright future.
Boon and Ng have created a unique and memorable sci-fi experience. It is a perfect short film; intriguing, intelligent and short enough to leave you with questions in your mind. Sonova probably wouldn’t work as a feature film, its length is part of its brilliance, a small and short insight into a vision of a dangerous but exciting future.