Netflix dropped “I Am Mother” a new science fiction film this June. Netflix hasn’t been very consistent in their movies. I haven’t even liked some of the more well received ones like Bird Box and Dumplin’. When it was suggested by multiple people in a short period of time to watch “I Am Mother” it made it’s way to the top of my “watch” list. I absolutely recommend you do the same.
If you are into science fiction AI, apocalyptic business, and intense suspense building this is definitely your wheelhouse. The setting is in the future where some kind of extinction event has resulted in the end of humanity. A robot named Mother grows a human embryo and cares for her until she reaches her adolescent years. Then after this very quiet intro Daughter’s world is turned upside down.
“I Am Mother” was unique in it’s capacity to avoid relying on special effects and overly complex plot devices. It had it’s share of mystery, suspense, and unexpected reveals, but they were able to develop organically. The events moved present so you never lost sight of what was happening NOW.
This is a slow burn. It is not meant for an impatient audience that requires lots of shock and awe. It’s built purely on a connection between Mother and Daughter. When the reality that’s been created for Daughter is questioned it bears an authentic emotional response. Is Mother evil? Is the newcomer lying? If you’ve connected to the concept of this sentient AI being Daughter’s mother then all of these questions and concerns evoke a true sense distress.
This is where the plot develops into a coming of age allegory. Daughter’s age is the perfect timeline for any pubescent starting to make the cognitive transition from obediently loving and accepting the reality our parents have provided us, to becoming an independent thinker and seeing the world differently. Usually this is demonstrated by outside influences that contradict the world our parents have presented us. Sometimes this even results in questioning whether or not our caregivers are friend or foe. The sense of betrayal and the struggle with Daughter’s choices are ones most adolescents can probably connect with.
There is a lot of great entertainment here, but a lot to embrace more abstractly as well. “I Am Mother” provides the dystopian plot and offers suspenseful entertainment, but asks you to participate. It wasn’t without flaws and sometimes feels a little too close conceptually to Duncan Jones’ “Moon”, but overall it delivers on most levels including an incredible performance from the young Clara Rugaard-Larsen. Her naive yet strong and confident performance persuades an ardent reaction from us viewers.
Netflix absolutely got this one right. It provided a methodology to the narrative that allowed the viewer to do some thinking. The simplicity of it allows the acting, the plot, and the events to deliver on suspense and their merit. For those that like everything spelled out for you, you may not enjoy this, but I found it’s ambiguity refreshing and another great story delving into a possible future. Bravo to Netflix.
Currently Streaming on Netflix