Sweet Penta is hailed as “the biomechanical companion for the discerning connoisseur.” As envisioned by the company that created her, Penta possesses the perfect traits for the lonely bachelor that orders her. Along with physical beauty she has been programmed to be obedient, to enjoy the same activities as her owner, and to cater to his every need while never expressing any of her own. By twisting a few parts in place and plugging in nodes to the correct ports, Adam (Shaun Callaghan) only has to wait a half a day to connect with his perfect woman.
Even during the serene moments of romantic bliss featured prominently in the opening segment of Penta, the looming sense of discomfort and of a dark turn never feels far off. While taken out of context the moments of the new couple laughing hand in hand, or canoodling on the sofa should not give one pause, Wolanin never lets the viewer forget the fact that Sweet Penta’s out of the box personality have been lab tested and scientifically engineered to meet the expectations of male entitlement. Penta is a woman without agency. There are some very specific choices made in her wardrobe choices, the couple’s body language and the tight framing of Dayla and Callaghan that are reminiscent of the 1950’s era marked by the idea of a submissive housewife and a “Father Knows Best” gender dynamic.
It’s not until Penta starts to make incremental steps into exploring the world on her own that Adam’s insecurities come roaring to the surface in the form of emotional and physical violence.
Dayla manages to bring true depth to her performance as the robot girlfriend.
The characteristic of innocence Dayla brings to the role makes the final turn all the more of a gut punch. Penta taps into a wealth of thematic veins, but what stands out is its exploration of how a person loves is so hugely influenced by how they were loved. Without diving headlong into spoiler territory, the closing moments drive home the idea that abuse tends to be a perpetual motion machine, passed like a virus from one victim to the next.