More People Need To Watch This Dystopian Sci-Fi Twisty Netflix
To be quite frank, the first 20 minutes of 2019 i am mom Disappointed me.
Just the opening. It begins with a written prologue to give you a sense of the film’s slightly cliche and dystopian setting: a future where civilization rises to singularity and ultimately meets its downfall. Then it heads to a constructed montage to showcase its sparse cast: a sound-sensitive robot and a young girl who live in sterile space station-like premises.
I, a self-proclaimed sci-fi movie geek and boring ending predictor, was convinced I knew where this was going. It gave me flashbacks to Moon (2009), Infinity Room (2016) and honestly some scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In fact, I paused the movie at one point to recheck Rotten Tomatoes to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating when I saw its 91% rating.
Yet nothing could have prepared me for the disturbing and existential film that is I Am Mother.
Going into this movie without seeing any trailers and only reading a minimal summary of its premise was probably key to my enjoyment, so I’m hesitant to say too much.
All you need to know is that director Grant Sputore paints a portrait of a post-apocalyptic world in which there seem to be only two survivors: a teenage girl, played by Clara Rugaard-Larsen, and her robot “mother”, voiced by Rose Byrne. . Together they co-exist in some kind of high-tech bunker – a building that neither is allowed to leave because Mother says the outside world is toxic and mean to humans.
But one day, an “outside” woman, played by Hilary Swank, finds her way.
As the story unfolds you begin to realize Something isn’t quite right with the unlikely friendship of Mother and Daughter, though it’s only at the end that the pieces of the puzzle really start to fall into place.
I Am Mother is also absolutely door by its cast.
Byrne and Rugaard-Larsen’s utterly captivating performances foster an undeniable on-screen chemistry. They reflect the nuanced relationship between human and AI convincingly enough that I wonder if I should fear or respect things like ChatGPT and Amazon Alexa, which technically inhabit in my house.
There was a moment when I vividly felt my perspective on the events of the film change, despite nothing tangible causing the change. And I suspect that each person’s “moment” like mine will be unique, based on their own perception of life.
I know how suspicious that sounds, but you’ll see what I mean.
This film also manages to keep you engaged with expertly crafted and tense sequences throughout. (Even for those first 20 minutes that I didn’t like, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen.) Although simultaneously, it explores a series of intriguing philosophical questions about what it means to be alive.
You’ll wonder if robots can really be trained as sentient; if there is an unshakeable reason, “human” is the root word for “humanity”; and above all, whether morality is neat as a utilitarian would claim — or more ambiguous as a deontological ethicist would.
To that end, however, I think the movie left some fascinating roads untrodden.
I often felt distracted by I Am Mother’s pseudo-scar games, action-adventure chase scenes and “what’s going to happen now!” cliffhangers, wishing the film focused more on its existential drama. I deeply believe that this film was rich enough in ideas to be much calmer, more thoughtful and maybe even more experimental than it ended up being.
For example, Rugaard-Larson delivered a range of guttural emotions that I think the camera could have lingered on for a few more seconds to give the viewer time to digest why those emotions were being expressed. And the writers could have integrated the character of Swank with Following emotional nuance, because it is only his presence that has changed the whole life of Mother and Daughter. Most of the time, she comes across as cautious and angry. It is suggests to know why she seems to be like this, but I would have liked to know more about her motivations and her history to firmly establish her nature.
These “why” questions are probably the most interesting part of the film.
And I know that’s really petty, but I personally didn’t like the way Mother’s robot body looked either. Some of its (its?) features – which I suspect the design team included to mimic facial expressions – were confusing to decode and threw me out of the way at times. I mean, I felt a lot more connected to the TARS of Interstellar, although that robot buddy was literally a few rectangular blocks stuck together.
But looking back, it’s not those minor setbacks that fill my memory of I Am Mother. It’s the aftertaste of all the technological and existential terror that this movie forced me to conjure up.
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