Review: Beta

Written and directed by Rohit Chandra, troubled person signs up for a cuddling service but will he be successful or did destiny make him take a surprising turn? Starring: Prabhanj Gouth, Karan Takkar, Anima Pagare, Ranji Kwatra and Onkar Das.

It’s not too difficult to imagine a future where physical intimacy becomes enough of a rarity for it to be economised in a technologically advanced age. Gouth’s lead immediately gives off a palpable loneliness through the shy, sluggish body language and quiet, self-conscious cadence, it appropriately sets the tone for what’s to come. After being disappointed at the cuddling agency, he returns home, only to have his peaceful evening disturbed by a woman’s cries through the wall, investigating only to discover they’re the cries of a robot.

Gouth’s performance is an interesting one, while it works without question to present his sad, lonely character whose lack of human connection in his everyday life leads him to seek it out commercially, there’s also a strange energy to him. He’s the type of character that you can feel sympathy for but at the same time, it feels like there’s an odd unspoken quality, which could be attributed to a lack of personality or vitality. The supporting cast do well, there isn’t really a large role for any of the others involved but they each do add something to the story.

The plot presents a question of whether robots are just intended to serve their owners or if they’re advanced enough to have emotions or feelings and therefore deserve some form of rights similar to those we are entitled to as humans. It’s one that’s been posed multiple times before but the film does still manage to do so in a way that feels different, it’s relatively short lived but does present an interesting argument. The writing isn’t entirely consistent, there are brief moments where it looks like it was taking a stab at comedy, where it goes over the top or where it’s fairly flat, it’s a strange mix of tones that doesn’t entirely work. The direction is more of a constant, there’s nothing too unique but it does well to use the locations at its disposal and the style fits the story that it’s telling.

Beta is another interesting take of the AI and robot emotion conversation however its exploration of the subject is fairly short-lived and it’s leaves a lot more questions than the answers it provides. The initial cuddling service scenes don’t feel entirely necessary, it would have been an interesting idea to develop further but again, it’s relatively brief, it might have been better served to solely focus on one or the other. The style is lacking in energy, it does reflect the loneliness of its lead but it feels like a missed opportunity to inject more momentum into the story. It’s a good concept that lacks a larger exploration or a stronger, more consistent style to fulfil its potential.

Verdict: ✯✯½ | 5/10

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