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I Am Mother

Regardless of its genre or plot, any time a movie limits its cast list to single digits, it’s a gamble. The further you reduce the number, the more daring the production becomes. By limiting the setting to a central location exacerbates this, leaving it up to the screenwriter, director, and performers to keep the audience’s attention despite the depleted resources. Most recently, EX MACHINA did this to perfection, and in 2010, the profoundly underrated Ryan Reynold’s drama BURIED proved that there were no limitations on to what the most minimalist of casts and settings could do.

The sci-fi drama I AM MOTHER, released on Netflix on June 7, may not reach the masterpiece level of the aforementioned productions, but it is an ambitious, entertaining, and thought-provoking film that not only delivers a fascinating story, but features an incredible breakthrough performance by newcomer Clara Ruugard.

I AM MOTHER begins with the end of humanity. An extinction level event has occurred, and within the confines of a secretive facility, the human race starts anew. A robot takes an embryo from a chamber, puts it into a solution, and sets a timer for 24 hours. When the clock strikes zero, a baby is born, and the nurturing begins.

We watch as the years fly by, and the robot, now known as Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises the young girl, now known as daughter, through her formative years. By the time she reaches her late teens, she is intelligent, kind, and graceful. Daughter (Ruugard) spends her time taking dancing and educational lessons from Mother, and is constantly being tested on her intellectual growth. In her free time she watches reruns of Johnny Carson, and seems content with her somewhat lonely existence. Having been told that the outside world is uninhabitable, she accepts her surroundings, and looks forward to the day when Mother decides that it is time to introduce another embryo to their sheltered lives.

Up until this point, the action is limited, but the dynamic between Mother and Daughter is enough to keep the audience engaged. When a mouse finds its way into the facility, Daughter begins to wonder for the first time what is really like outside the confines of the facility, while mother assures her that it is impossible to survive. This idea begins to crumble, however, when an injured woman (Hillary Swank) begins pounding on the outside door, begging for help. Daughter, though fearful, lets her in, and sets off a devastating chain of events.

I AM MOTHER has an EX MACHINA vibe, which never hurts, but more than that, the combination of the story and the outstanding performance by Ruugard made it impossible to look away. The “end of the world” thing has been done countless times before, but when done well, it can still be a serviceable plot device. That is certainly the case here. This can be attributed to the deft direction of Grant Sputore, and the intriguing script by Michael Lloyd Green (based on a story that the two developed together,) but most of all, the credit goes to the cast. The dynamic between Mother and Daughter is captivating, and this is a direct result of the performance by Byrne, and Ruugard. Exhibiting a natural sense of curiosity, while also remaining genuine and trusting, Daughter yearns to establish common ground with the bot that raised her, and the injured Woman who is suddenly suffering in their care. While Mother is practical in her weariness and skepticism of the wounded stranger, Woman refuses to even consider the notion that a robot could harbor anything less than murderous, evil intent. Daughter is left hovering somewhere in the middle, conflicted in her trust with the being that raised her, and the stranger that, by all accounts, shouldn’t exist. This convoluted triangle raises more questions than it answers, but in a film like this, I think that is exactly what Sputore’s contemplative exercise was striving for.

I Am Mother

GRADE: B+

RATED: TV-14

RUN TIME: 1hr 53min

GENRE: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

STARRING: Hillary Swank, Luke Hawker, Rose Byrne, Maddie Lenton, Clara Ruugard

DIRECTOR: Grant Sputore

Writers:  Michael Lloyd Green, Grant Sputore

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.