“I Am Mother” is one of those movies that literally came out of nowhere and absolutely blew me away. Made by first time director Grant Sputore, the film tells the story of how a robot, referred only to as “Mother”, raises a child, referred only to as “Daughter”, in some type of closed off bunker, after an unexplained event causes the extinction of the human race from earth.
Mother tenderly attends to all of her daughter’s needs, at the same time that she gives her classes and submits her to some strict array of tests and exams to broaden her mind and teach her the ways of life. Daughter sees this hunk of metal as her Mother, but she also longs for true human contact. Everything goes relatively well and peaceful for the two of them until someone else disrupts the calm routine they had developed up until that point.
Ever since the first few minutes, the movie immediately reminded me of another sci-fi movie which I truly loved, “Ex Machina”. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that “I Am Mother” and “Ex Machina” are somewhat complementary, like two sides of the same coin; one is about a solitary android who was kept enclosed by his human creator and who longs for breaking out and experience the outside world, the other one is about a solitary human who was kept enclosed by her android caretaker and who longs for breaking out and experience the outside world. By saying this I’m not implying that “I Am Mother” is a rip-off of “Ex Machina”, in fact, despite sharing a lot of similar themes and having a somewhat similar plot, the specifics of said plots and the dynamic between the characters are completely different in each film.
The movie stars Clara Rugaard as Daughter, Hillary Swank as the outsider, and Rose Byrne as the voice of Mother. Swank has proved over and over again what a powerhouse of an actor she is, and here she is solid as usual (even though the script doesn’t give her a lot to do), but the real breakout is Rugaard. She is in almost EVERY shot of the film, and she absolutely commands the screen from start to finish; there was not one moment when her acting felt forced or fake to me. She completely conveys all of her character’s emotions with an uncanny ease, be it her innocence and naivety towards the world surrounding her, her growing distrust towards Mother, her determination to help a stranger, and ultimately her fight to understand the reason of her very own existence. Rugaard has an incredibly expressive face, and based on her work on this film I predict she’s probably going to have a very fruitful and long career.
The voice of Byrne gives a suitably creepy tone to everything Mother says; she always talks with a tender and warm attitude, but everything she says feels calculated, although that’s never done too in your face or overtly noticeable, which is great, and helps prevent the character from becoming a one-note antagonist. The look of the robot seems like a mix between Chappie and Eve, from “Wall-E”. I like how, during most of the movie, when she is just standing there talking, she doesn’t look all that threatening, but in the few scenes when she suddenly starts running… Man, that’s unsettling as hell; she looks just like a predator hunting for its prey. Also, the fact that she doesn’t have any recognizable facial features adds to the eeriness of the character as the audience can never truly figure out what she´s thinking or feeling at any given moment.
One thing I have always liked and greatly respected is when a project succeeds at turning a small budget into a stunning looking film full of incredibly realistic special effects. Just like “District 9”, “Moon” and “Ex Machina” did before, “I Am Mother” manages to make every penny of its relatively small budget count, with absolutely realistic special effects and an incredibly well realized robot that, for the most part, was made the old fashion way, with practical effects and a real robot suit, and not CGI (according to the director CGI was use very judiciously). The movie looks really beautiful throughout, and the third act broadens the scope in a way I wasn’t expecting, which was a pleasant surprise (I won’t go into details as to not spoil all the revelations).
Like quite a few of my favorite sci-fi movies, “I Am Mother” is not as interested in action sequences or fancy set pieces, as in creating an intelligent story that makes the viewer think. The last ten minutes of the movie had my brain completely light up, trying to analyze and weight in all the possible moral conundrums and ethical implications that the plot was throwing at me, and I really love when movies do that. This is that rare sci-fi piece that succeeds just as well on an emotional level as in an intellectual one.
So, I think is pretty obvious by this point that I really liked the movie. I wholeheartedly recommend it for fans of intelligent sci-fi movies that make you think… It’s not the most original movie ever, it may greatly remind you of “Ex Machina” (as I already stated), or “I Robot”, or “Moon”, or “Oblivion”, or even “10 Cloverfield Lane”, but still, the film manages to take these familiar elements and do something that feels fresh and special with them. The rhythm is kind of slow at first but about halfway through it picks up the pace and doesn’t let go from there. If you’re looking for a slick fix of sci-fi, look no further. “I Am Mother” is available on Netflix right now.