Given both our fascination and reliance on the support of technology, it only makes sense that the relationship between man and machine is one oft explored throughout the annals of cinema. From John Connor’s correlation with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator to Joaquin Phoenix’s obsession with Scarlett Johansson’s voiced AI in Her, so often are these links presented as cautionary tales of sorts.
In I’m Your Man, co-writer/director Maria Schrader opts for a narrative that wisely avoids the sci-fi heavy tropes of such titles, aiming for a more romantic and reflective take instead, a direction that lends the film an unlikely relevance. Centred around the somewhat archetypal Alma (Maren Eggert) – she’s in her 40’s, recently divorced and entirely devoted to her work, so a romantic comedy cliche if ever there was one – who has agreed to a three-week trial program based around the idea of a specifically catered humanoid living with her for the purpose of evaluating their success as a life partner and general societal presence.
Her humanoid is Tom (Dan Stevens), a suitably handsome and all-too agreeable creation that has been designed to Alma’s distinct interests. Their first meeting is riddled with all the cliches of a blind date, but Schrader is all too aware how to frame the film in opposition of what is expected, with Tom’s eagerness to please Alma in manners that she should theoretically enjoy only pushing her further away.
Whilst his design is to fundamentally please Alma, I’m Your Man indulges in the notion that someone characteristically perfect is ultimately anything but, and it’s when he slowly breaks down her guard – something she assumed her perfect partner would let her keep up – that her emotional truth is revealed, warming her towards him in the process; this relationship only enhanced by the performances of Eggert and Stevens, the two naturally bouncing off each other, despite her near-constant irateness at his wide-eyed, stoic sublimity.
Masking its commentary on the societal expectation of women with a certain charm, I’m Your Man‘s look at the modern dating atmosphere feels remarkably grounded in spite of its futuristic premise. Eggert and an oddly funny Stevens liven this tender dramedy that provides comedy and contemplation in equal measure.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
I’m Your Man is screening as part of this year’s German Film Festival, which is running across major Australian cities between May 25th and June 20th, 2021 For more information head to the official festival website.