When it comes to sci-fi movies, they often fall into two distinct categories. First, there’s the extravagant kind which takes you out into new faraway places, with exciting futuristic technology, possible alien species and often high in action. These are your typical Star Wars, Star Trek and Marvel films. Secondly though, you get the more reflective kind of sci-fi which tends to tone down on all that stuff, but delivers more of an introspective story that gets you thinking. If you’re a fan of the latter approach, then Netflix’s new sci-fi film I Am Mother may just be for you.
In truth, while it is a movie that is defined in the sci-fi category, at its core the film explores the relationship of a mother and her daughter and how their bond is affected in uncertain times. The sci-fi twist though is that in this instance the mother is a robot whose sole purpose is to raise a new human, grown through stored embryos as the potential last beacon of humanity.
The movie covers some big themes but calling it introverted is deliberate, because rather than choosing to focus on the broader conflict that might have led to humanity’s dying out or a bigger story of humanity’s salvation, the script by Michael Lloyd Green instead focuses almost exclusively on Mother (mo-capped by Luke Hawker and voiced by Rose Bryne) and Daughter (Clara Rugaard). In fact, for large parts of the movie, they are the only characters you will ever get to see and hear, with the film essentially taking place in a confined bunker area. Thankfully though the movie allows its characters to develop naturally in a way that you can easily relate to their relationship and deeply care for them. And while the movie may suffer from some character fatigue, for the most part, you remain deeply invested in their situation and relationship.
However, this s not a movie for everyone. Its focus on telling a relationship story might be a well-told one, but it’s unlikely to excite many people who might be looking for something bigger. Yes, there is some air of mystery that gets revealed later and some tension that builds but it never really expands into anything beyond this and although the ending may be somewhat satisfying, it doesn’t leave you with any big existential questions or make you go wow at the end. The pacing of the movie is also one that may frustrate because the film does move rather slowly. The payoff is certainly worth it as it allows for some decent character development where you get to understand these two characters and their motivations well, but if you aren’t patient with it, you could just as easily get frustrated and watch something else instead.
Personally, I’m someone who doesn’t mind allowing a movie to take its time to set things up and found the story about this strange bond between two diverse characters quite an interesting one. Rugaard, in particular, brings a lot of believable emotion to her role, which is a good thing considering Byrne, as the voice of the robot, isn’t really allowed to delve into any sort of emotional development. Hilary Swank does make an appearance in the movie as well, but I will leave you to watch the movie to figure all of that out. Her performance is of a high calibre though. The direction by Grant Sputore also prevents you from feeling any form of claustrophobia and drops a few mysteries here and there that leave you suspecting something else might be underfoot, but not enough to fully know who to trust when it matters.
I Am Mother tackles some bold ideas with some remarkably simple storytelling. It’s a measured and introspective movie at times, but a clever one too if you take the time for it. This is not a big blockbuster by any stretch, but a decent enough sci-fi movie that should keep fans of these sorts of films happy and another decent feather in the cap for Netflix.
Last Updated: June 14, 2019