Director Michal Krzywicki’s dystopian sci-fi film The Day I Found a Girl in the Trash places us in Poland in 2026. We are told that the Polish government has enacted a system wherein those convicted of severe crimes are made into automatons. These automatons are fitted with a collar that delivers a drug that erases their memory and makes them immune to pain. Instead of having these automatons wither away in prison, they are put to do community work, work for businesses, and even perform sex work.
Szymon (Michal Krzywicki) is an activist opposed to the automaton project. He offers a pocket of resistance in a population that, as we are informed by a newspaper headline, overwhelmingly supports the project. Szymon has the world media’s attention after announcing on social media and YouTube that he will commit suicide. His suicide is a spectacle that he hopes will rally protest against automation. He sets the date for his suicide and by all appearances is very determined to go through with it.
Before the day of his suicide, Szymon goes outside to toss the garbage and finds a woman underneath a pile of trash bags—making the film’s title quite literal. Previous scenes reveal that this woman (Dagmara Brodziak) was an automaton sex worker whose collar was removed by an unhinged client. We also learn that anyone removing an automaton’s collar or aiding an automaton will be subject to criminal prosecution. Szymon decides to bring her up to his apartment and offer her food and shelter. The drugs the woman was exposed to via the collar permanently altered her. She is feral in her behavior. She can barely form words. One of the few words she is able to form is what goes on to become her name—Blue. Szymon begins developing feelings for Blue. He learns that Sweden offers asylum to Polish automatons. Szymon and Blue set off on a road trip that they hope will end in their leaving Polish soil and finding asylum in Sweden.
Krzywicki gives the viewer some very clear coordinates. The Day I Found a Girl in the Trash is obviously influenced by Blade Runner and less obviously by E.T.; however, it has neither the ingenuity nor charm of both those films. There are obvious thematic allusions to our everyday use and consumption of animals. Shots involving caterpillars, horses, roosters, and earthworms make that clear; a little all too clear. Also, scenes involving Szymon, a man, training—or one could say acculturating—Blue, a woman, to use a fork and knife are a bit cringey in terms of the gender and cultural dynamics of 2021.
And even when there are interesting moments in the storyline, they are not taken advantage of. A scene in which some of Szymon’s coworkers taunt a female coworker for the sympathy she shows for Szymon’s cause is a perfect example of these missed opportunities. The coworkers chastise the woman and expose her hypocrisy by stating that her family owns three automatons. This could have been a perfect opportunity to delve into how this society, even those who show sympathy for the plight of automatons, is fully economically intertwined with the exploitation of automatons. But that thread stays in that office scene and does not get picked up again. By the time Szymon and Blue are halfway into their journey to Sweden, the film runs out of gas. While Krzywicki’s film is far from being a total failure, it is far from satisfying.
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