I’m Your Man review: a sci-fi romance about meeting AIs instead of fighting them

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Artificial intelligences – robots, cyborgs, humanoids, all that jazz – are often split into two factions in science fiction. They are either the overlords of humanity or our servants, and all the friction that exists between us and them is caused by the discrepancies between these levels of authority. Imagining an entity conceived as an equal and complete point is trickier, but German sci-fi romance I am your man treats the idea with care.

In this well-paced and surprisingly fun film, German director and co-writer Maria Schrader examines the appeal of romance, the demands of partnership, and the ethical question of what we owe to creatures designed specifically to meet our needs. (I am your man would make a good double with Christian Petzold Undine, where Schader’s German filmmaker probes the same three ideas from a fantasy, rather than sci-fi perspective.) Is our happiness so important that it should be someone’s only motivator? ‘other ? Can a robot created by humans have the same amount of free will as a human? If everything in AI reflects human qualities, does that mean that our mistakes – or our selfishness, or our cruelties – are our heritage?

The screenplay, co-written by Schrader and Jan Schomberg, tackles these questions in a natural way and with a pleasantly jovial pace, through conversations between university professor and language researcher Alma (Maren Eggert) and humanoid robot Tom (Dan Stevens). ), which she agrees to live with for three months. Alma has no interest in love or companionship, but is forced into the study when University Dean Roger (Falilou Seck) promises her additional research funding if she reports on her experiences with Tom.

Photo: Bleecker Street

The question is whether humanoids should be granted human rights, such as the ability to work, marry, or travel. Alma and the nine other study participants agree to determine whether RNs like Tom are “human enough” to gain basic dignity and freedoms. Tom is billed as the perfect man for her, meeting all of her specifications, wants and demands. Normally, Alma spends her time people-watching while she drinks alone at the neighborhood bar, watching college students, or people-watching in the streets under her upper balcony. Eggert’s tiny changes in facial expression capture his spectrum of reactions to his own voyeurism, and these subtleties reflect a woman so accustomed to loneliness that she takes it for virtue.

Theoretically, Tom is what Alma wants. It is so beautiful that one of the graduate students working with Alma practically passed out when he entered their laboratory. He’s polite, keeps the doors open, tips the service staff and serves coffee to one of Alma’s exes who unexpectedly shows up at his apartment. But Alma is distant, closed and even harsh in her constant comments on Tom’s artificiality. When they first meet (a clever scene that plays out like a bad date before revealing Tom’s status), Alma seems disgusted when an operating system glitch causes Tom to repeat himself over and over again. In her house, she laughs at her algorithm, and when he’s confused about her disinterest in him, she says “It’s human.” Will they sleep in the same bed, as the program intended? Absolutely not.

Eggert and Stevens have beautiful, contrasting energy, with their unimpressed expressions, unmoved beards, and aloof body language that sparkle against her pleasantly bland smile and smoother physicality. Their interactions often involve aggressively demanding responses from Alma, while Tom is kindly nodded. (“So what’s wrong with your cock?”) This push-pull becomes so established it’s a refreshing change of pace when Tom starts to wonder what Alma really wants.

Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens lie on the grass together in I'm Your Man

Photo: Bleecker Street

And while Stevens recalls Michael Fassbender’s David with his precise and efficient movements, Tom is slyly humorous and self-aware, rather than oozing threat. Stevens’ proud online delivery of “Brushing My Teeth and Cleansing My Body” when Alma asks about her body’s bathroom needs is the kind of eerie delightful moment where I am your man excels.

But the film isn’t all enemy-to-love hijinks and romances, and its other plaintive subplots add welcome weight. Alma’s research into how early written language used poetry and metaphor to break down administrative texts reflects the film’s broader philosophical considerations of the need for joy and spontaneity in everyday life. Her interactions with her aging father and the ex-boyfriend who quickly moved on after their breakup also adds context that supports the film’s central thesis, about how the roles we play in the lives of others keep us alive. challenge us to look beyond ourselves.

I am your man uses Alma to assert that while we may think that we are alone, our interdependence is part of the social contract of living in society and of the shared responsibility to do our best to improve it. “It’s a machine. He doesn’t feel anything, ”Alma insists about Tom, and I am your man luckily, doesn’t go the expected route of saying that she really is the unaffected person. Instead of, I am your man offers a whimsical yet melancholy perspective on humanity, and its intimacy is a welcome change of pace in science fiction, a genre that too often confuses violence and colonialism as the sole driving forces of drama.

I am your man opens in limited theaters on September 24, 2021 and debuts on digital rental services on October 12.


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