New Sci-Fi Releases: Auggie (2019) - Reviewed

Starring Richard Kind (of "Bing Bong from Inside Out" fame) in an unexpectedly dramatic role for his persona, Auggie plays more like a Black Mirror episode (with essentially the same running time) than a full theatrical film. Considering the direction the aforementioned series has gone since its acquisition by Netflix, however, it won't be too difficult anymore to match the similar Twilight Zone-esque stories with unrelated, full-blown projects. It's a story very clearly set in our own present time- or at least the not-too-distant future, where augmented reality technology is getting more and more advanced as we progress through the digital age. Everything is the same as it would be in today's world, aside from the titular AR glasses through which our protagonist finds his life and well-being slowly absorbed.

It's a relatively short and straightforward story- only running at around 81 minutes- but that doesn't make its premise and unfolding events any less fascinating. There's some near TV soap opera-level character drama between Kind and his character's wife, yet the strain in their relationship is still felt with a tension that could be sliced with a fine-point knife. A beautiful Christen Harper provides the voice and body of Auggie: the gorgeous, young AR assistant whom Felix (Kind) finds himself all the more entranced by as their time together progresses. It's an unconventional tale that matches the quirkiness of Black Mirror, yet it feels like the story could have gone much further beyond its simple tale of a marriage on the edge of shattering.

Alas, director-writer Matt Kane doesn't delve as deeply into the world of his augmented reality creation as I would have preferred. Instead, he only relies on surface-level relationship strains and reality confusion to weave a simple, but intriguing, tale. It still bears the kind of cautionary vibe that a Black Mirror episode would bring, but to a much less alarming level than the latter. There's a nice little plot twist towards the end that catches you completely off-guard, yet nothing ever goes back around to it to provide a better explanation. It's thrown into the mix for a "gotcha" moment and then immediately disregarded. Granted, it has an ending shot that I live for in any film, but the complete lack of further world-building and character exploration beforehand left me wanting a whole lot more.

Richard Kind has an incredible talent, but a voice that doesn't entirely match what he's supposed to be playing in this role. It's odd, but not wholly distracting once you get used to the idea of him in this story. Kane and his co-writer, Marc Underhill, have provided an ultimately unique and fascinating story that feels more like an extended introduction and then immediate denouement than a fully fleshed out story. I was left wanting so much more seen and explained than what I was given- which can be both good and bad, depending on who you ask. For all its worth, however, Auggie shows a lot of promise for a future career for these two; and I have high hopes that they give us better and better stories in the coming years- perhaps even a bona fide Black Mirror episode of their own.

-Wes Ball