In Latin, Alma Mater means nourishing/bounteous mother. I tell you this because Maren Eggert, one of the film’s two main stars, plays a woman named Alma. Alma, in fact, nourishes the thirst for knowledge within the artificial life she has agreed to study.
She’s a bit skeptical of what he has been created for but gives it a go for the sake of science. That artificial life is a robot named Tom, played spectacularly by Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame. When she first sees him, she’s blown away by how perfect he looks. Not just in how human, but how beautiful he appears to be. She quizzes him, curious about how intelligent they made him. One question is something that only an actual human could know, something he could not have personally experienced. She wonders how he could possibly know the answer. Soon after, he begins showing signs of what he truly is and stops working altogether. He’s pulled away, and she’s assured he’ll be ready tomorrow.
At this point, the audience doesn’t know Tom is a robot. Dan’s performance and mannerisms are so engaging and skilled, both emotionally and comedically, that it doesn’t become clear what’s going on until the cyborg goes down. She wasn’t impressed with what she has seen so far but agrees to take him home for three weeks… after she signes a confidentiality agreement, of course. Brains are scanned, surveys are taken, and millions of people’s personality traits, views, and feelings are downloaded into this complex, very expensive machine. She is to see if he’s ready to mass-produce, to become a perfect partner for those in need. Think of him and others like him as the new singles bars or apps. However, the company wants to go further, hoping that their creation can even become partial citizens one day. That’s a scary thought.
When she gets him home, he cleans her apartment spotless. We could all use a little Tom in our lives if you ask me! Against anyone or anything touching her personal belongings, he’s asked to put everything back the way it was. It takes him eleven minutes to return everything to the way its original position, to make a mess, that is.
He thinks he’s with her to help and for romance, especially. To bring her “tenderness and butterflies.” She explains that she’s only to observe him and report back her professional opinion. Still, if he wants to make her happy, he can simply leave her alone.
You’d think she’d have a little fun, but she’s not an algorithm to be tinkered with as he is. Uncomfortable alone with him at first, this begins to fade. Eventually, her icy disposition turns onto a warmer and more amicable path. She does have some fun with Tom, mostly at being his teacher. She begins this by explaining that some things are beyond his programming. Allowing her to be his mentor leads to more of a bond and a trust, something you can tells she doesn’t often give away.
A lot happens between the first meeting and the film’s end, but reaching the end is the real reason to continue watching. Not in a bad way, but to see what the writers Maria Schrader and Jan Schomburg are pointing out. Some of it is detailed in her report, but much of it you catch along the way. It’s almost impossible for her to let herself go and enjoy him for what he is, but will that be a problem for others?
She meets up with someone who’s also reporting on the robots. He’s ecstatic about his humanoid. She treats him better than any human ever did. She’s kind and loving, and he’s already in negotiations to see if he can keep her. Is it possible for Alma to ever feel the same way? The report and the last scene dive deep. It gets much more profound than you’d expect from a movie with such a specific theme. I’ve given enough away, though. I’ll let you enjoy the rest, which you will, especially the portrayals of Tom and Alma. The end of the film is very clever but can be considered frustrating, depending on your taste. This is a great yarn, no matter.
I’m You Man
Director: Maria Schrader
Writers: Maria Schrader, Jan Schomburg
*Based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky
Starring: Cast: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw
Release Date (Theaters): Sep 24, 2021 *Limited
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rating: R for Language & Some Sexual Content
Genres: Romance, Comedy, Sci-Fi
Original Language: German w/ Subtitles
Distributor: Bleecker Street