Girl Meets Robot in Thought-provoking Comedy “I’m Your Man” | Film + TV Reviews | Seven days
This week, in honor of the Tech Issue, I reviewed a German film that asks this age-old question: what if Mr. Right was actually an algorithm in a robotic body?
Directed and co-written by Maria Schrader (Love life), I am your man was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 2021 Berlin International Film Festival. At press time, it performs at the Savoy Theater in Montpelier and Roxy Cinemas in Merrill in Burlington, and it is commendable on various streaming platforms.
Archaeologist Alma (Maren Eggert) is not looking for love. She is happy to spend long hours at the museum with her research team. But for some reason (it’s never quite clear), Alma’s boss is making his research funding dependent on his willingness to serve as a tester for a new line of humanoid robots designed to be perfect romantic partners. . For three weeks, she has to live with Tom (Dan Stevens), a seductive machine who has been programmed to satisfy her every desire.
Well, sort of – a lot of Tom’s romantic programming is actually boilerplate based on demographic generalizations. Alma rolls her eyes when he prepares her a champagne brunch or fills her bathtub with rose petals. None of this feels as real as what she shared with her ex (Hans Löw).
As Alma spends more time with Tom, she finds herself enjoying and even needing his company. Is it love? Friendship? Or did his algorithm just finally decode it?
Will you like it?
Robotic romance stories predate the digital age. Without doubt, the very first was the legend of Pygmalion, in which a sculptor falls in love with the statue he created. And most of these stories have the same moral: be careful what you want. Their protagonists learn that an inhuman lover who seems too much perfect may not be the best partner in the long run.
So why I am your man play differently, with Alma rejecting Tom first and then warming up with him? Well, we are in 2021. Although robots that are mistaken for handsome men still do not exist (unfortunately), most of us have extensive experience in interacting with algorithms that are determined. to decode our psyche to meet their business imperatives. We know they’re not always good at it, until sometimes, without warning, they are. We roll our eyes on targeted advertising to find ourselves emotionally addicted to likes and shares. Who is the robot now?
Stevens is eerily perfect as the embodiment of an artificial intelligence’s struggle to get under our skin. On Tom’s first date with Alma, his “romantic” behavior is intrusive, even frightening; we can see why she is reluctant to bring him home. But as he watches her at best, at worst and everything in between, we can practically see the quick calculations unfolding behind his eyes. By the time he’s done, he knows what she needs better than she does.
Eggert’s naturalistic performance is the perfect sheet for Stevens’ glide. With her face perpetually worried, Alma looks like a woman who has long given up on experiencing any form of happiness. But deep down, she has a tender heart, and Tom is determined to unlock it.
Basically a series of conversations, I am your man plays much more like a witty two-character stage drama than a cinematic romantic comedy. Jokes are deadpan verbal blunders rather than bursting laughter nonsense. Tobias Wagner’s whimsical score seems out of place. And the ending… well, whether it’s happy or not is perhaps the central question of the film.
Schrader doesn’t create an ubiquitous vibe like Spike Jonze did in Her, corn I am your man raises similar questions about whether we are watching a real dialogue or a monologue. If Tom’s sole purpose is to reflect Alma’s secret desires to him, is she always alone when she’s with him? Or is this a new class of beings with whom it is still possible to establish an authentic connection?
We rarely see Tom without Alma. But in a tantalizing scene, left to his own devices, he orders a very specific coffee drink and then asks the barista with sparkling eyes if she could have guessed that he didn’t have the capacity to want anything. . Wanting, it seems, separates the human from the inhuman. If AIs ever learn to enjoy impersonating us, we could all get in big trouble.
If you like it, try …
Make Mr. Right (1987; PlutoTV): Long before the World Wide Web, this romantic comedy from director Susan Seidelman made the radical proposition that an AI could have the advantage over a human partner. John Malkovich plays a scientist who has created a robot in his image. PR flack Ann Magnuson falls in love with the machine, which has a naive charm that its creator lacks.
Her (2013; Sundance Now, commendable): Joaquin Phoenix plays a lonely city dweller who falls in love with his virtual assistant (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) in Jonze’s meditation on what it means to connect.
“Humans” (three seasons, 2015-18; Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, commendable): Robots can make good lovers, but all kinds of thorny ethical issues emerge when they develop a conscience. This is what happens in this British sci-fi series, in which people can buy humanoid machines to use as maids, companions, sex workers and more. HBO’s “Westworld” explores a similar premise.