NEWS

I Am Mother – Netflix’s sci-fi thriller lacks pop

For at least 16 years of our lives we are governed by our parental overlords, and I’d wager for most households the majority of the authority, for whatever reason, was held by the mother. While dads have to work a bit harder to get a foothold in early life we are instantly bonded wth our mothers because they are, quite literally, our life support system.

Hillary Swank and Clare Rugaards faces with the robot mother standing in the foreground holding a baby.

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So what if that life support system is replaced by something artificial? What if the early life, to which I refer, is actually the only life? What kind of human results from a non-human upbringing? Kind of like the Jungle Book but instead raised of being raised by wild animals the kid is raised by appliances.

Combine that with the old chestnut of robots taking over humans in intellect, strength and general survivability and you get the premise for the Netflix exclusive I Am Mother.

Who put you up to this?

Making their feature film debut, Australian Director Grant Sputore and writer Michael Lloyd Green set out to show what you can do with a well formed script, a small budget and a really solid cast.

The story was actually picked up from a thing called The Black List, which is compiled from an annual survey of Hollywood exec’s favourite, yet to be produced screenplays. Stories that usually come from groups largely underrepresented by the mainstream.

This Black List has got some clout too, scripts like Slumdog Millionaire, Juno, The King’s Speech and I Tonya have all been plucked from it. It’s good to know we have these antidotes to the filthy blockbuster, to replace the return on investment ethos with a need to push boundaries and create something new.

I Am Mother is about the end of humanity and the effort to rebuild.

I want the full story or I’m calling their parents!

Beginning with one small embryo, a robot incubates, delivers and raises a lone human girl to adulthood. The robot is her parent, her teacher, her playmate and the little girl calls her Mother. The girl never ventures out into the world for risk of contamination and her entire life is etched out in the well stocked bunker/laboratory where she was born and raised.

It is thought that this daughter is the only living soul on the planet until one day a mysterious stranger shows up wounded, knocking on their front door and that is where things start to unravel. The daughter is made to question everything about what she’s has been taught to believe and has to figure out who to trust – the droid she has known her whole life or her own species.

It’s a bit like 10 Cloverfield Lane meets Moon.

Well if they told you to put your head in a fire would you?

The cast are very, very good, and there’s only really four of them if you count Luke Hawker, the guy in the robot suit. Rose Burn chimes in as the voice of Mother and certainly gives Siri, Alexa and all those other silicone ladies a run for their money. Clara Rugaard branches out from teen movies and TV period dramas with a great performance as Daughter and Hilary Swank’s star almost burns too bright for this modest film but she just manages to contain herself as Woman.

That’s right none of the characters have actual names.

What am I going to do with you?

The movie is fairly well crafted and it achieves a lot with a small budget. Most of the shots are interiors and the best and probably most expensive special effect would be the practical one of Mother, who was designed by Weta.

The performances are all great but more emphasis should have been placed on Daughter’s naivety, especially when Woman enters into the equation—this may not be helped by Swank’s ability to out-act everyone else in this very confined space—because she doesn’t seem as shocked or surprised as she should. But there are a couple of great scenes where she’s trying to hide things from mother where the tension comes across much better.

It’s a slow build and could have done with a slight trim on the run-time but it’s very much on par with (if not better than) your average movie length Black Mirror episode. It doesn’t end as strong as it starts but it’s definitely worth a watch and we can expect bigger and better things from Grant Sputore in the future.

Just wait until your father gets home!

I Am Mother is clearly influenced by of a lot of science fiction films that have gone before but instead of having it’s heart on it’s sleeve, its got an interesting story and a tissue that it can spit on and wipe your grubby face with so you don’t look like nobody owns you. And while you’re at it, clean up your room!

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