REVIEW: ‘I Am Mother’ is a Science-Fiction Thriller that Lacks Originality

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I Am Mother, a film directed by Grant Sputore, stars Rose Byrne as Mother, Clara Rugaard as Daughter, and Hilary Swank as Woman. The film follows a teenage girl who is raised underground by a robot named, you guessed it, Mother.

Mother is in charge of repopulating the world after the extinction of all humans. She bonds with the teenage girl and decides to name her Daughter. The robot tries to teach Daughter how to be a morally ethical human in order to pass this on to others as the earth begins to repopulate. However, their bond is threatened when a stranger, referred to as Woman, arrives at their bunker with alarming news.

Although the premise of the film captured my attention, the character of Mother was particularly intriguing. Even though I’m not particularly familiar with many sci-fi films, having a robot be a maternal figure for a young girl is a unique element in any film. However, it’s very clear that she cares about Daughter, albeit in her own special manner. Mother tries to make sure that her daughter doesn’t lose hope in humans through different lessons. There’s a scene where Mother gives her a morality test by having Daughter choose who she would save if she were a doctor. When Daughter doesn’t answer, Mother tries to remind herself about how important it is to save as many humans as she can.

The love that she has for her daughter is complex, especially as plot progresses. It’s complex not just because of this relationship formed between a robot and a human,  but also because of the amount of responsibility Mother puts on Daughter. She puts a lot of trust into her being the person who helps her rebuild humanity. As I was watching the film, I began to notice that Daughter wasn’t given a choice, this responsibility was thrust upon her. The moment the Woman arrives, she quickly learns she can make her own choices. This will surely leave viewers wondering if any affection that she shows for Daughter is real or not.

Rugaard does a phenomenal job displaying Daughter’s innocence throughout most of the film. Given that she was raised in an isolated bunker with the sole intent of being humanity’s leader, I would’ve expected her to be much more timid of taking on such a huge responsibility. Her fascination with all things human was an interesting approach for the film to take. It starts from her distrust of humans since she was told by Mother that they caused the end of the world. It later progress into fascination, including watching old television shows. Her wonder for humanity was definitely one of the stronger elements of the film.

It’s quite interesting to see the formation of this kind of relationship. From the few Sci-Fi films I’ve seen, any bond formed between robots and humans are mainly portrayed as the human being seen as a the hero with a robot sidekick. It’s incredible to see a mother-daughter relationship being formed with these two characters. For instance, they have a conversation towards the beginning of the film about humanity. Mother tries to explain how not all humans are evil. What makes this unique is in the way Mother explains it. She perfectly encapsulates motherly instincts and shares her knowledge in a way that’s sincere.

Swank’s portrayal of the Woman s a character that one would typically seen in a Sci-Fi film. She’s not so trusting of Mother, given that she looks like the robots that destroyed the earth. The Woman then causes this rift between Mother and Daughter, which is the main tension of the film. She tries to convince Daughter to come with her out of fear and distrust towards Mother. Her fear is evident from the start and carries her character throughout I Am Mother.

The premise and the lead actresses surely should have been sufficient to deliver a great film. Unfortunately, I Am Mother relies on moments of suspense to carry it forward. The moment the Woman is introduced into the film, the suspense starts to take its place. The film sped through explaining what happened to humanity and how Mother is rebuilding the human race, which ultimately made the film rely too heavily on suspense rather than story. The suspense scenes are incredible, but they shouldn’t be the only thing viewers remember after watching the film. For instance, there’s a scene where Mother is searching for an intruder in the bunker, who turns out to be the Woman. The look of desperation and fear in the Woman’s eyes was quite palpable.

I Am Mother also suffers from complete unoriginality in relation to the plot. It’s not uncommon for Sci-Fi films to have their plots revolve around robots causing the end of the world. Yes, Mother is rebuilding humanity and her relationship with Daughter, but everything else seems like it could have been found in any other Sci-Fi film. The film tried to deviate and create something unique through suspense, but the lack of ingenuity wasn’t enough. I could imagine films in any genre would want to find a way to make an impact, but following too many traditional tropes can make a film seem unoriginal.

Overall, I can’t say I can recommend I Am Mother. It does have phenomenal aspects of suspense which will surely leave audiences on their toes, The unique premise and fantastic characters carry this film forward in a way that is unique but also doesn’t quite add anything new to the genre. The ending of the film is a bit lackluster, especially since it doesn’t really do anything or add any sort of explanation to earn that ending.

I Am Mother is now streaming on Netflix.

Final Rating: 6/10