I Am Mother (*****) the future is then

I Am Mother – 2019

Director Grant Sputore
Screenplay Michael Lloyd Green
Starring Rose Byrne (voice), Clara Rugaard, Hillary Swank, Luke Hawker, Hazel Sandery

I Am Mother is a deftly made film that gives a whole world within the confines of a post extinction event bunker where there is one human girl, named Daughter (Rugaard) born from a huge swath of embryos and cared for by a robot named Mother (Byrne). The Android is specially suited to raise the child, from the specially heated pads on her chest and arms, to her constant testing of the child in myriad ways, making her an expert in things like philosophy, dancing, surgery and fixing the wiring when it shuts the bunker’s electricity down.

The second act starts with the introduction of an outsider (Swank) who is suffering from a gunshot wound. The mystery that the woman unleashes spurs the imagination of Daughter, to the point where clash inevitably occurs.

If nothing else, I Am Mother introduces a Rugaard as a powerful young actress from Denmark. She is able to portray a diverse range of emotions, most importantly intelligence, curiosity, bravery and conflicted affection.

It’s a pleasant irony that she debut in a film opposite Swank, who has shown at least that same range since her earliest films, since going on to win an Oscar twice. Swank isn’t given so much to do here, aside from present the apple with which to tempt Daughter’s Eve.

Byrne and Hawker create a complex and subtle character in the android that is Mother. She gives her daughter all of the knowledge that would be appropriate when seeking to raise someone to start off the human race once more. The viewer is given more information, of course. This raises the stakes for everyone when we understand the difference.

The strength of the film is in Rugaard’s powerful performance. Her struggle back and forth between what she knows and what she wonders might be out there is enthralling, mostly due to her reactions to the input of new data.

The story holds a different logic end, and it’s reasoning is on a thin line. This film shows a reverence to the potential of human life over the actual deeds of those living it. In this way, it is a very unique type of pro-life film. It also makes a case for artificial life reaching beyond what we are and seeing what we can be.

Keeping the characters to a minimum in no way diminishes the effectiveness of the story. This is dystopian future story telling at its best. It makes us think about more than the story. It makes us think about who we are and what we could be.

(***** out of *****)

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