Welcome to “Should I Check Out…” a weekly column here at ScienceFiction.com dedicated to giving you the scoop on recent TV series, movies, games, novels, comic books, and more – entertainment that you may not have heard of or may not have had the chance to explore yet. We’ll explain a bit about what the property is, what you might get out of it, and what you might not know about it, so you can be armed with more knowledge as you ask yourself the question: should I check out this stuff… or not?
Take a look at what we’re writing about this week, and if you’ve already checked it out, let us know in the Comments section below what you think about it!
Your friendly neighborhood streaming service is in the business, these days, of producing original content in an attempt to get you to spend your head-earned money on a monthly subscription with them. The choices right now are plentiful, with many more on the way in the next few years as network TV providers and cable channels decide that it’s time to hop on the streaming train.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, that’s a debate for another column, friends; but what’s not up for debate is the fact that Netflix has long been on the forefront of offering their own in-house TV series and films in an attempt to woo and retain their subscriber base. The realm of science fiction, in particular, seems to be a key focus point for the company, and one of the latest offerings from the Netflix Originals side of the company is “I Am Mother,” from a script that’s been bouncing around Hollywood for a bit co-written by the film’s director, Grant Sputore.
The film only partly fits the “Netflix Originals” bill, as it was created by a different production company (Southern Light Films in conjunction with a few others), premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and then snapped up by Netflix for worldwide distribution rights.
This is all well and good, but – what’s the film actually about, and is it any good?
To start with the former: the film has a very sci-fi “Cast Away” type of vibe, with really only three actresses in the entire film. The bulk of the plot revolves around Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne), an artificial intelligence that mans a bunker during some vague end-of-the-world type of scenario. The Earth will soon need to be repopulated, and the first of hopefully many cryogenically-frozen embryos to be thawed and grown is a female simply referred to as Daughter by the A.I. Clara Rugaard portrays Daughter for the bulk of the film while the action is taking place; “action” in the form of a surprise human being (Hilary Swank) showing up at the bunker door in an unexpected fashion.
From here, Daughter must learn to interact with another real, live human when she’s never had to before, and in typical us-versus-the-robots fashion, the seemingly-altruistic motivations of Mother are called into question, leading to a twisty conclusion that you may or may not figure out in advance, depending upon how much sci-fi you tend to take in. Clocking in at just a few minutes under two hours, one can’t help but shake the feeling that, based on the somewhat succinct synopsis I was able to provide in the previous two paragraphs, the movie is a bit sluggish in places and could perhaps have had a good 20-25 minutes shaved off of it without any major impact on the outcome.
Visually, the film itself is beautiful, and it’s an impressive amount of work on both the CGI and the physical effects for a VOD film that never saw the light of a large theater-chain screen. The trio of actresses do excellent work with their respective parts; in a surprising vibe, it’s relative-unknown Rugaard that slightly outshines the stalwart Hollywood talent of Byrne and Swank. This may be due to the fact that Rugaard’s character largely drives the pathos of the film, and this is certainly not a knock on either of the other talented actresses and their work here in the film.
Ultimately, though, from a plot standpoint, “I Am Mother” left me wanting more than what was presented on-screen. Perhaps it’s the science fiction aficionado in me personally, but there isn’t much presented in this film that’s been done many times over in other stories and other media previously. While it’s clear that Sputore and co-writer Michael Lloyd Green had some “bigger picture” ideas about humanity, artificial intelligence, and how the two interact and co-exist – and they worked hard to try to effectively translate these ideas on-screen – to me, nothing particularly unique came out of the tale, and the climax of the film felt like it was chock-full of twists and “surprise reveals” just because the creative team thought it would have to be, as some sort of action-y payoff to the audience for watching a long, slow-moving film with only a trio of actual actors in it.
In conclusion: I’m certainly not saying that “I Am Mother” is a bad film… it’s just, for me personally, missing the key elements it needs in order to be a film worth remembering and re-watching. Perhaps that’s just the cantankerous sci-fi fan in me who has seen so many different movies & TV shows and read so many different genre-specific stories that it’s simply getting harder and harder to surprise me anymore.
Does that sound like you? If so, then you may find the film a bit blasé as well – but if that’s not you, then you may discover more to enjoy with “I Am Mother” than I specifically did.
Got a recommendation for a movie, show, book, game, comic, or otherwise that we should feature? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @tonyschaab and let us know all about it!