The exploration of artificial intelligence and its oncoming headlong collision with humanity has been a perennial favorite of the movies for decades now. Add Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man to the list.
More sweet than profound and more concerned with asking small questions about the compatibility of woman-and-machine than intelligent design or hostile takeover, the film is actually more of a muted romance than most films that self designate that genre.
Taking place in the not too distant future- or perhaps even the ‘now’ as the film looks and feels like modern Germany- workaholic researcher Alma (Maren Eggert) signs up as a feedback sponsor for a new type of personal robot. Designed to be the perfect mate for man or woman, Tom (the handsome and steely Dan Stevens who doesn’t need to do much in his embodiment of a prescient intelligence object) isn’t quite what Alma expects.
She doesn’t want him for sexual compatibility or as a cure for loneliness, but the two grow in a relationship that not only challenges the status of her long-gestating research project, but drastically changes her outlook on life.
The pull of the narrative resides mostly in Alma’s resistance to Tom’s true nature. Some humorous details aside- such as how a robot can get turned on or the knowledge that surges into him by simply looking at something- are addressed, but I’m Your Man is largely about denying oneself true happiness.
Directed by Schrader (whose previous work includes being the show runner for the limited Netflix series Unorthodox) and written by her and Jan Schomburg, I’m Your Man is a bit dry at times, but it certainly gets credit for exploring an oft used topic in unique ways.
And while the film does bend towards an ending that’s never too far removed in the usual romantic comedy, I found the most intriguing bit earlier in the film. In a scene close to the end, Alma runs into a colleague- old, balding and a bit overweight- with a beautiful robot on his arm. He explains a lifetime of being the invisible man in the room and never being popular with anyone have changed with this new companion…. who simply smiles and quotes a few programmed lines. It’s a knotty conversation full of the stuff science fiction films have been asking forever. Is technology better or will it destroy us? Schrader’s I’m Your Man isn’t keenly interested in answering that, but it is diverting and sweet at the same time.
I’m Your Man opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday September 24th at the Dallas and Plano Angelika locations.