Brian Aldiss' tale of techno-evolution, championed by Stanley Kubrick, provides Steven Spielberg with the platform for one of his most thoughtful and thought-provoking works. In a world drained of life, sophisticated robots - from gardener to housekeeper to gigolo - cater for man's every whim. But the landscape changes when a dying scientist creates Mecha-boy (Haley Joel Osment), a prototype that thinks and feels like a real human. But can a robot really feel love? Jude Law is your android guide to a bewildering and dazzling world.
Haley Joel Osment
As he lay dying the late, great master Stanley Kubrick's final project was passed on, with his blessing, to Steven Spielberg.
What results is spectacular to look at and interesting, at the very least.
The future is a place where birth control is enforced with military rigidity so the Earth's dwindling resources are not swallowed up.
Sophisticated robots - from gardener to housekeeper to gigolo - cater for man's every whim in a world drained of life.
However, at Cybertronics a prototype Mecha-boy, who thinks and feels like a real human, is ready - a robot who can show love and not gobble up precious resources.
The terminally ill son of Cybertronics employee Henry (Sam Robards) and his wife Monica (Frances O'Connor) is lying in a coma.
Such is their desperation for a surrogate son they - at first reluctantly - agree to welcome David (Haley Joel Osment), the prototype Mecha-boy, into their home.
He gradually becomes theirs and the deal is sealed when he is finally programmed to show love - a move from which there is no going back.
The burgeoning relationship between Monica and David is beautifully handled, with director and writer Steven Spielberg at his emotionally strongest.
Then there is catastrophe for David and joy for Henry and Monica - a cure for Martin (Jake Thomas) is miraculously found and he comes home.
However, the rivalry between the real boy and the Mecha becomes too much and a series of incidents leads to Monica abandoning the now distraught and confused David.
The only unstinting companion by his side is Teddy, a fatastically endearing 'super toy', who walks, talks and thinks almost as well as David himself.
Teddy's devotion and protection are unstinting.
After a meticulous build-up the film rather falls apart with David linking up with Gigolo Joe (Jude Law), a sex worker Mecha suspected of murder.
David's memories of fairy tales read to him by Monica set him on a journey to find love again from his surrogate 'mother'.
A superbly plotted opening hour - with legendary film-maker Stanley Kubrick's dabs all over it - is squandered by a cramped and confused second half.
The performances - particularly Haley Joel Osment - are superb but the denouement appears unhinged compared with the methodical run-up.
However, the powerful emotional pull of David's enduring love and his brief window on real happiness is inescapably satisfying.