As someone who clearly loves horror, I constantly get asked what scares me. Whenever I reply there’s always a look of shock clearly written on their faces because the things that scare me are not what typically scare other people. With that said, I’m sure you are dying to know what it is that crawls underneath my skin leaving me disturbed for days to come, and, well, here it is: pregnancy, tsunamis, and robots. In I AM MOTHER, the latest original film from Netflix, my fear of robots is reinforced once again when a droid is tasked with the responsibility of repopulating Earth after as mass extinction.
I AM MOTHER is the feature film debut from director Grant Sputore, and tells the story of a teenage girl (Clara Rugaard) who has been raised by a kind robot that she affectionately refers to only as Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne). As we learn early on in the film, there has been a catastrophic event which has resulted in mass extinction. Located within a repopulation facility is Mother, a robot tasked with repopulating the earth with 63,000 embryos on site. As we hear the rumbling and explosions outside of the facility, we watch as Mother takes one embryo and sets about bringing it to life, thus introducing viewers to Daughter. As time goes on we watch as Daughter excels in her studies and the teachings that Mother offers, always within the compounds of the facility as the outside world is deemed unsafe, though it becomes apparent the older she gets the more she yearns for human interactions. One night, she hears a faint knocking, and upon investigation opens the facility airlock to find a woman (Hilary Swank) who is badly hurt and in need of medical assistance. As Woman and Daughter’s unique relationship begins to grow, Mother finds herself becoming jealous, leading Daughter to question everything she’s been told by Mother in regards to the outside world.
For his first feature film, I really felt like Grant Sputore did an extraordinary job in bringing Michael Lloyd Green’s story to life. There’s a lot of themes that play throughout the film that I found to be extremely relatable, the most prominent being the relationship between mothers and daughters. I’m very lucky to have a really close relationship with my mom but that doesn’t mean we aren’t at odds quite a lot. Furthermore, we inherently want to trust that our parents are making the best decisions for us, that the things that they tell us are factual and the rules in which they place are reasonable. When Woman is brought into the picture, we find Daughter split between the two, but as the motives for both Mother and Woman are revealed, it’s apparent that their justification for their actions will come with heavy consequences. All that said, I really enjoyed the tension that Sputore created between our three characters as the story revealed the truth surrounding each one of them.
Speaking of our three leads, they are the only characters in the film for 99.9% of the movie. I personally was really drawn to Mother and how disarming Rose Byrne’s voice is to the point where it’s hard to resist her concerns and cares. I don’t like robots because I believe that a Terminator-style apocalypse will happen someday but I’ll be the first to admit that Mother gave me a false sense of comfort that I’ve now come to reprimand myself for. Clara Rugaard, who was most recently in the film Teen Spirit, shines as Daughter, proving that she has the talent to stand on her own against two powerhouse performers. I enjoyed watching her arc as she dealt with the fallout of all that she thought she knew. Her pain, as well as her curiosity towards the world she doesn’t know, was one of my favorite aspects of the movie. I found Hilary Swank’s character, Woman, to be the most complex and the one that exemplified loneliness the most. Many won’t agree with the actions that she takes but at the same time, I wonder what any of us would do if we found ourselves in her situation. As the film came to an end, I actually felt an immense amount of sadness for her, a feeling I didn’t think I would have considering what she’s done.
If I had to critique the film I would say that it felt like it went on a bit too long. The runtime is under 2 hours but I felt like there were a lot of filler moments that didn’t necessarily need to be there. There were a few occasions when I actually thought the movie was over only for it to continue and I think that dragging sensation only worked against the film. What did get me through those lagging moments were both the score, which was composed brilliantly by Dan Luscombe (Hounds of Love) and Antony Partos (The Rover), as well as the skillfully haunting and precisely sterile cinematography from Steve Annis – it’s honestly a whole mood and I loved it.
In all, I think I AM MOTHER is a great addition to the sci-fi genre and a reminder of how terrifying both robots and humans can be. I think the overall execution would have been better suited had some of the writing been pulled back towards the end but even so, there’s quite a lot to enjoy with the film. Though it may not be reinventing the wheel in terms of uniqueness, I AM MOTHER will impress you with its ability to quickly ratchet up the tension while also providing powerful performances and extraordinary visuals. I AM MOTHER is now available to stream on Netflix.