Film: “I Am Mother” on Netflix; Director: Grant Sputore; Cast: Clara Rugaard and Hilary Swank; Rating: **(2 stars)
There are only two human characters in this dystopian, futuristic film that presumes the world would one day be extinct of all feelings, except the maternal. That’s a sturdy premise to build an emotional sci-fi upon. However, the brittle plot snaps in vital places showing the fissures and gaps in any argument that presumes the human race to be hurtling towards self-destruction.
“I Am Mother” wants to go gently into the (tormented) night. The relationship between the ‘daughter’ (21-year-old Danish actress Clara Rugaard pulling off a much younger character) and the robot ‘mother’ (speaking in the nurturing voice of Rose Byrne) is done up in shades of gratifying equanimity.
The interior of the bunker where the Robot-mother brings up her over-protected daughter is meticulously designed. It gives a feeling of a cold, clinical detached home at odds with the maternal protectiveness that the robot-mother showers on the little girl.
The tensions that emerge between the two when a gritty, implacable, far from vulnerable (does Hilary Swank know any other way to be?) human stranger arrives in the midst of the mother-daughter duo. The ensuing dramatic tension is only partially explored as the plot propels itself into a self-generated hysteria about a universe on the brink of cataclysm.
The problem with “I Am Mother” is in its awkward tonal shift. It tries to leap from the nurturing intimacy of the bunker into a world of devastation and ruin, but slips somewhere in the chasm that separates the notion of ruination from redemption.
Nonetheless, this is a reasonably engaging plot with the two human actors Hilary Swank and Clara Rugaard trying their utmost to ensure we don’t miss a larger human population in the apocalyptic intimacy of isolation. But the film is eventually felled by its failure to fuel the frisson between human and robotic instincts.
We know these characters are troubled. But we are unable to care enough for them.