Released in 2022, ‘The Artifice Girl’ is an interesting film to revisit in the current climate. With the sudden explosion of AI technology, the science fiction aspect of the story has suddenly become a plausibility. The film unfolds like a play. It is exclusively dialogue driven, and almost every scene takes place inside a room. The narrative spans decades and is split into three acts, The Clearwater Kid, Singularity & Sockeye, and Caro–Kann, with each act consisting of an interaction. Writer-director Franklin Ritch portrays the young version of Gareth, a tech genius who creates the self-improving artificial intelligence called Cherry to track down pedophiles, drawing the interest of the ICWL agents Deena (Sinda Nichols) and Amos (David Girard). Here is everything you might want to know about the ending of ‘The Artifice Girl.’ SPOILERS AHEAD.
The Artifice Girl Plot Synopsis
In the prologue of the film, Deena prepares for the meeting with Gareth and uses Siri to send messages and set up appointments. In a moment of reflection, she asks the virtual assistant how she knows whether she is doing the right thing. This brief and seemingly trivial conversation sets up the plot of the film. ‘The Artifice Girl’ is an exploration of the human condition, the concept of sapience and autonomy, exploitation, and the notion of the greater good. As mentioned above, almost the entire film takes place inside one room or another. The first act is set inside an interrogation room, where Deena and Amos interrogate Gareth. At this point, the audience doesn’t know these characters and has no idea why they are in that room. As the film progresses, the revelation comes in stages.
It turns out that ICWL largely does humanitarian work, and Gareth has apparently come seeking a grant from them. But the section where Deena and Amos work is dedicated to catching sexual predators targeting children. This leads the audience to initially presume that Gareth is one such individual, but it is later revealed that he has played an active role in the arrests of nearly 200 people who frequent certain types of chat rooms. Using the alias HardMachine11811, he infiltrates the said chat rooms and traps these people.
The agents admit that they find Gareth’s actions commendable, but as he uses the photos of an underage girl in his crusade against the pedophiles, they can arrest him. This prompts Gareth to admit reluctantly that the girl, Cherry (Tatum Matthews) doesn’t exist. He initially created her as a 3-D model and used motion capture to add movement to the character. The film establishes that he is extremely proficient in these subjects quite early after revealing that he has been a VFX artist in Hollywood.
However, while this system worked for the first three years, things changed after that as he sought to improve his creation. Realizing that language is more like poetry than a game, he taught Cherry how to communicate with her targets. Since then, Cherry has become one of the most complex, independently evolving AI ever created. She spots predators at such an alarming speed that it made ICWL wonder whether they are really done by one individual.
Toward the end of the act, it is revealed that Cherry shared Gareth’s hard drive (which contained sexualized photos of her avatar) with ICWL, triggering the investigation as she seemingly thought that it would be better if they started working with the organization. And that’s what ends up happening by the end of the act as Deena establishes the Cherry Team.
The second act is set 15 years later. In the intermediate period, the team has expanded, and Cherry has become an even more effective predator catcher. This has led her three handlers to conclude that she is ready to be uploaded into a real-world body. But someone has apparently voted against it, stalling the project. Eventually, Amos admits that he didn’t vote in favor of the Merger as he realized that Cherry had increasingly become like a human child. She can feel, compose poetry, enjoy art, and behave almost similarly to a pre-teen girl. Amos beats up Gareth to bring these well-concealed aspects of Cherry to the fore. When Cherry admits that she doesn’t like the idea of the Merger, the plans regarding that are canceled.
The third and final act is set several decades later. An elderly Gareth (Lance Henriksen) returns home, and we learn that Cherry has undergone the merging process at some point, and now she looks exactly like her avatar. In this act, the creator and the creation finally confront questions they have avoided for five decades.
The Artifice Girl Ending: What Happens to Cherry? Does She Become Autonomous?
In ‘The Artifice Girl,’ Cherry continues to evolve. When Gareth first comes to speak to Deena and Amos for the grant, he reveals Cherry has become a self-improving AI, who only needs him for maintenance purposes. Fifteen years later, that necessity has shrunk, while Cherry’s capabilities have expanded exponentially. Even though she and Gareth initially deny this, she has effectively developed emotions. While she considers what she does for the ICWL incredibly rewarding, she has begun using creative outlets such as poetry to express herself.
The more Cherry learns about humanity, the more human she becomes, despite being well aware of their shortcoming as a sapient race. In the final act, most people she started the journey with are gone. Gareth is still there, but his age has taken a toll on him, and he uses a wheelchair. The Cherry Team is still active, though in a different shape from what it used to be. It is implied that several other versions of her have been created to go after the Predators at a global level. Gareth sometimes comes to visit her; she cooks for him, or they play chase. We see her hooked to a set of cables, but it is soon explained that they aren’t necessary. She has effectively become autonomous.
Despite this, just like any human child, Cherry carries the burden of her progenitor. Gareth faced sexual abuse and trauma while he was a captive at Clearwater and passed it on to Cherry when he created her as a weapon against the abusers. The problem is that by doing this, he has exposed an entity with real human emotions to these individuals. As Cherry’s consciousness developed over the years, she became what she was mimicking to be — a pre-teen girl. This contextualizes Gareth’s most reprehensible sin. He created a life and then threw her to the wolves in his pursuit of what considers justice, disregarding the ramification it might have on Cherry’s psychology. This is why he remained in denial about the existence of her feelings for a long time.
In the end, Gareth gives Cherry the code that sets her free, erasing her primary objective. As the film concludes, Cherry is shown without the cables, dancing without inhibition. Her physical state mirrors her inner happiness. She is free to do what she wants for the first time since her inception.
Who is Cherry Modeled After?
At first, Gareth vehemently denies that Cherry is based on anyone. In Act 1, he claims that he built her from scratch. He began with her skull and added bone structure before working upward through muscles and tissues. He used a program called D-term to fill in the rest procedurally. He claims that the way Cherry looks is the end result of the above-mentioned process, a “completely unique, completely digital model,” a technological solution to a technological problem.
However, Deena still seems to have her doubts and asks Gareth about Cherry’s eyes, which are blue with tinges of green. Gareth tries to dismiss this, but he is not entirely convincing. In Act 3, Cherry reveals that she has found the person she was modeled after in the digitized version of a recently discovered federal archive. The girl’s name was Maria Harbough. On Cherry’s urging, a reluctant Gareth begins to recount his past, revealing that Maria was one of the captives alongside him at Clearwater. Her sheer optimism, even in their circumstances, kept him alive.
When the predators found out that the FBI was coming for them, they began to shoot in an attempt to kill as many of their captives as they could. Maria again saved Gareth’s life but died in the process. Maria and Gareth often spoke about becoming secret agents and capturing predators once they escaped captivity. As this didn’t materialize for Maria, Gareth created Cherry in her image to fulfill her wish.
Are Deena, Amos, and Gareth Dead?
We know Deena has about a year left when Act 2 takes place, and she decides to spend it with her family. The prologue of Act 3 involves Gareth receiving Amos’ ashes from a funeral director. After their interaction, it is implied that Gareth continues to visit her, and she keeps cooking for him.
Toward the end of the film, a shot of the mantelpiece reveals that a third container is added there, indicating that Gareth is dead as well. It was always the predicted outcome that Cherry would outlive all of them. Gareth even predicts that she will survive humanity itself.
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