I Am Mother movie review: Clara Rugaard is caught in a clash of matriarchs in Netflix's dystopian thriller

Prahlad Srihari

Jun 11, 2019 13:50:06 IST


I Am Mother had its world premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where Firstpost had already reviewed the film. With its global release on Netflix on 6 June, we are republishing this review.

I Am Mother movie review: Clara Rugaard is caught in a clash of matriarchs in Netflixs dystopian thriller

It doesn't take a village to raise a child, but a mere soft-spoken AI droid in I Am Mother. Netflix

An artificially intelligent droid, known simply as Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne), wakes up after an extinction-level event in a sealed repopulation facility. Programmed to raise and preserve the human race in this underground bunker, it begins by inserting one of 63,000 embryos into a makeshift microwave-like uterus. We see the embryo develop into an infant girl in an expedited gestation in a 24-hour cycle. The mechanical matriarch then nurtures and tutors her Daughter into a smart, virtuous teenager (Clara Rugaard) to prepare her to lead the human race. But, with her whole life confined to this deserted hideout, Daughter begins to wonder about the world outside.

When a woman (Hilary Swank) bleeding from a gunshot wound arrives at the facility, Daughter lets her in without Mother's knowledge. The woman's story about how humanity perished casts a doubt on everything Mother has taught her about the world outside. So, is Mother really the humanitarian we all thought she was or has she gone all Skynet? Is the Woman telling the truth or is she just trying to upend their world?

It's a riveting premise but I Am Mother fails to live up to its promise. It lets you marinate in suspense and keeps you guessing till the end by taking so many twists and turns to sustain the tension. It winds you tighter and tighter before its secrets come slowly tumbling out. But, unfortunately, the film disappoints with a highly derivative third act. While the early jitters are rooted in psychology, it soon turns to all the usual tropes and gimmicks found in most sci-fi films featuring AI. In the end, it's just another examination of mankind's experiments with a technology they don't yet fully understand and director Grant Sputore doesn't offer anything new to the topic that hasn't been explored already.

Various stills from I am Mother. Netflix

Various stills from I Am Mother. Netflix

However, it is a sci-fi film that gives equal importance to character-driven drama as its visual effects. Clara Rugaard is phenomenal in her breakthrough performance as a daughter forced to choose between two not-entirely-trustworthy maternal figures. And the world truly needs more Hilary Swank than it is currently getting.

I Am Mother is a commendable enough entry into the sci-fi genre but it lacks the kind of thought-provoking speculative ideas found in minimalist dramas like Ex Machina or big-budget productions like Blade Runner 2049. It has a problem of too much atmosphere and not enough gravity to ground its story, which stretches a bit thin over feature length. It would have worked even better as a short film with just the Up-like opening sequence of Mother and Daughter.

I Am Mother may not offer any thing fresh or novel but it's worth seeing nonetheless.

Director: Grant Sputore
Cast: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank
Rating: ★★★

I Am Mother is now streaming on Netflix.

Updated Date: Jun 11, 2019 15:33:29 IST