>> I talk frequently about female representation in film. To be honest, “frequently” might be an understatement. Inclusivity in film is crucial—I can go into a plethora of reasons why, but at this point, we are all aware of the harmful impacts of exclusion on screen. One of the most exclusive film genres remains to be Science Fiction, which is notoriously known for its lack of diverse central characters. While many directors and writers maintain this genre’s status quo, there are a handful of gems that come to mind to break this irritating cycle. One of which is new to Netflix this month, I Am Mother is a sci-fi thriller that will lure you in with its slick looks, but keep you invested with its three lead performances.
Directed by Grant Sputore, I Am Mother takes place after human extinction. Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) is a robot that lives in a government bunker. Her only purpose is to repopulate the world with the thousands of embryos she looks after. One day, Mother extracts an embryo into some sort of sci-fi pressure cooker, and in less than 24 hours Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is born. The film begins with some unorthodox humor, and it’s “growing up montage” seems like a perverse version of the famous montage in Pixar’s Up—to be honest, it’s almost just as heartfelt. As Daughter gets older she raises questions and concerns for the uninhabited planet that’s just an airlock away. When Daughter lets a stranger (Hilary Swank) into the bunker, Mother and Daughter’s relationship is tested by the announcement of some alarming news.
I Am Mother exudes visual sophistication—specifically with its production design, which is intriguing and well suited. Its special effects are simple yet extremely effective. The design and movements of Mother are unnerving but also comforting—matched with Rose Byrne's calming voice, the audience is able to give their trust over to her. The technical elements of this film come together efficiently and cohesively. The visual contrast between the mortal and artificial is sublimely executed.
Written by Michael Lloyd Green, I Am Mother plays out similarly to most science fiction films involving artificial intelligence. Even the metaphors and symbolism is a little too familiar. Yet, the film’s three female lead performances give this film the gravitas it needs. Rugaard plays Daughter with a perturbed level of autonomy—her movements, mannerisms, and social interactions are simply mechanical (resulting from being raised by a robot, of course). When Swank finally arrives one screen, her energy is consumable—it’s mortal, it’s as human as human can be. The contrast between all three performances is palpable, which makes up for the film’s monotony.
To be frank, it’s hard to find a good sci-fi thriller that passes the Bechdel–Wallace test (a work that features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man). While I Am Mother has its faults, it’s a strong addition to the genre and offers strong, poised, and purposed performances. 7/10 <<
I Am Mother first premiered at Sundance Film Festival and is currently available to stream on Netflix.