Technology is a horror show, governed by robots, algorithms, and targeted ads that are way too relevant to that conversation you just had with your roommate. And it’s constantly shifting, with new pieces of machinery designed to make our everyday lives better (if you can pay, that is). In this technological hellscape we are constantly trying to navigate, there is the further alienation we experience through social media and dating apps. The way we approach relationships is rapidly changing, so what will romance, love, and dating look like in just a few decades? Princeton Holt’s (Chloe) 2050 offers to answer that question, while also grappling with bigger ideas about humanity and technology in a fascinating way.
In the year 2050, not much has changed. There are no self-driving cars or fancy cell phones that look like pieces of glass. All that’s different is that sky is full of drones and people can now buy sex bots, fondly known as E-Mates. These E-Mates are fully customizable robots that anyone can purchase for companionship and sexual desire. They are a partner without the baggage, arguments, emotions, and family. Michael Greene (David Vaughan, Shared Rooms) is a game developer who is in a seemingly loveless marriage. He is stressed, tired, and looking for inspiration, some kind of passion for his next game. Then, he meets his brother-in-law’s E-Mate, Quin (Stormi Maya, Death Kiss), and is immediately fascinated. He tries to hide his obsession, but cannot stay away from the alluring possibility of this kind of relationship. He eventually gives in, buying an E-Mate, Sophia (Stefanie Bloom, Reckoning), but hides it from his wife. This brings up questions of fidelity, if this is really cheating since Sophia is just a robot (for the record, I think it’s definitely cheating), and the shifting idea of polyamory.
A big theme of 2050 is, simply put, men are icky. In this distorted future, they want to build an obedient being that has everything they want, even down to the nipple color and vaginal temperature. In fact, there is an entire scene that involves what looks like the most advanced video game character customizer I’ve ever seen as Michael chooses the features of his E-Mate. While there are women who have built their own E-Mates, the film focuses on the male desire for obedience and a partner who will not talk back or refuse their sexual advances. Female characters with E-Mates are shown on dates with their robots, making women seem like they are merely seeking out companionship rather than sexual satisfaction.
“A big theme of 2050 is, simply put, men are icky.”
Brooke (Irina Abraham, According to Her) Michael’s wife, is characterized as the type of woman who would push a man to such “extremes.” She argues, she’s stubborn, she won’t perform the exact time of role play Michael wants; in short, she is not submissive. She voices her opinions, and is therefore deemed a difficult woman. While it seems that the film is trying to create a message about male desperation and warped desire, there isn’t any kind of redemption for Brooke. There is no moment of clarity where Michael realizes the troubles with their marriage and apologizes. Rather, Brooke is further painted as the bad guy.
2050 adopts a neon aesthetic so often seen in the sci-fi movies of today. Nighttime scenes and any moment with an E-Mate is awash in neon pinks and purples, indicating a strange, dream-like state. It oscillates between more natural lighting and this neon aesthetic to make the time spent with E-Mates all the more fantastical and unreal. Yes, they are real in the world of the film, but they are still a fantasy, a man-made object that strives for perfection but is missing a beating heart. This is a world full of loneliness that is bandaged with silicone and metal parts.
I’ve talked about 2050’s interesting attempts to grapple with what relationships and humanity may look like in the future, but much of that happens towards the end of the film. Its first half is excessive exposition, building up to Michael getting a sex robot and a seemingly unnecessary story about a man trying to get his ex-girlfriend back. It all makes sense as the film comes to a close, but some may not have the patience to wait for that. There were parts of 2050 where I wanted to write it off as a gross and exploitative sci-fi film that plays into male fantasy. While I was pleasantly surprised, 2050 takes too long to prove it’s not as sleazy as it starts.
“..I wanted to write  off as a gross and exploitative sci-fi film that plays into male fantasy. While I was pleasantly surprised, 2050 takes too long to prove it’s not as sleazy as it starts.”
One of the biggest issues with 2050 is its jarring use of music. Licensing music is expensive, especially for a lower-budget indie film like this, but that doesn’t mean the score should confuse the narrative’s tone. There are moments where the music completely shifts a scenes tone, moving from serious to comical with just a few notes. Two characters are talking about fixing a relationship while carnival-like music plays over their conversation. The theme music for Chef’s Table plays over an orgy-like scene between humans and robots. These are moments where I don’t think you should be laughing, but I was anyway. I was so distracted and taken out of the narrative by the music choices that I had a hard time getting back into the film.
There are a lot of complicated topics in this film and it really does make you think about our shifting relationship with technology and how it has affected, and will continue to affect, our relationships with one another. The world of 2050 isn’t much different from our own with the exception of these sex bots. This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror with a myriad of technological advances, but rather a world that more closely mirrors our own. Which begs the question: what kind of future are we in for if all we care about is building robots who are obedient to our sexual desires?
2050 is currently touring the U.S. with dates in Baltimore, Nashville, and Houston, with other cities yet to be announced.