Sunday, 16 June 2019

I Am Mother is a maternal Chappie



I Am Mother is the best Netflix original genre film since director Alex Garland's Annihilation. Like Garland's previous film, Ex Machina, I Am Mother shares the same sense of encroaching claustrophobia and mines a rich seam of sci-fi tropes (at times inverting them) with post-apocalyptic aplomb!

Set in the aftermath of an extinction event, I Am Mother could have been a pedestrian retread of overly-familiar themes. Instead, it is elevated by stunning cinematography, taut direction from first-time film director Grant Sputore with a background in commercials like Ridley Scott and David Fincher, Weta's wizardry - Mother is a memorable robot performed by Luke Hawker - and an inspired casting trifecta. Hilary Swank (Woman) channelling Linda Hamilton, Rose Byrne as the sensitive voice of Mother, and Clara Rugaard (Daughter) who is the revelatory driving force and evokes a young Natalie Portman.



I Am Mother weaves a philosophical tale of artificial intelligence raising human life, a prevalent sociological theme as digital assistants become increasingly integrated into our daily lives. What are Mother's motivations and is Daughter in danger from her gleaming guardian or the mysterious woman? There are nods to Alien, Blade Runner and Terminator as Sputore and screenwriter Michael Lloyd Green explore allegorical subtext with greater subtlety than Neill Blomkamp (Chappie).



Where I Am Mother stumbles is in the third act as the story moves from a confined space into an open world decades after a cataclysmic war. Yet, despite that unexpected narrative stutter, the ending is ambiguous and thought-provoking. It is easy to see Sputore going on to direct for Marvel Studios and a galaxy far, far away...

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