The exploration of love between a human and artificial intelligence is by no means a new concept. Whether we’re talking a voice in an earphone like Her, or a captive innocent as in Ex Machina, or any number of Star Trek plotlines, it has been done before. This time around, though, it’s not a matter of whether a machine can love, but whether having a partner made to order to fulfil all your needs will actually fulfil all of your needs.
As the film opens, Alma (Maren Eggert, who won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale for this role) is led through a crowded ballroom. People are dancing to swing music, laughing, eating, and having a good time. She is sat down next to Tom (Dan Stevens), a handsome man who immediately compliments her. As he attempts to flirt, she asks him questions about himself, like who his favourite poet is, the second to last letter of his favourite poem, and 3587 times 982 divided by 731? Tom, you see, is the android in question in the film, made specifically to be her perfect partner, and she has agreed (or been volun-told by her boss) to live with him for three weeks and produce a report on the ethics and efficacy of artificial partners.
Alma begins her journey reluctant and unwilling to see Tom as anything other than a machine. As the film progresses, she warms to him, naturally, but rather than directly question the ethics of the situation –whether they’ve created a slave race springs to mind– or the more existential issues –at one point, Tom confesses that he’s not entirely sure of the difference between feeling something or simply pretending to– the film elects to investigate what it means to be happy and if having everything handed to you on a silver platter is actually a means to that end.
Both Eggert and Stevens are excellent in this. Stevens, playing a robot pretending to be a human, does an excellent job of having Tom walk the line between cartoon and realistic. His body language, in particular, is perfect, affecting robotic movements without turning into a caricature. His choices for dialogue are even better, never forgetting that Tom has perfect recall and a built-in WiFi connection, but also remaining naive and tender in all the right ways.
Eggert has a more difficult arc to overcome as a character who is unhappy and isn’t convinced she ever can be, but watching her defences come down is wonderfully heartfelt, and you’re never not rooting for her and Tom to succeed.
The film sags somewhat in the middle and has a few plot threads that could easily be excised to make the film a little tighter, but these are nitpicking when you consider the first and third acts, which are all at once funny, genuine, bittersweet, and lovely.
I’m Your Man is playing in select Canadian theatres and is available on-demand.
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