A teenage girl is raised underground by a robot "Mother", designed to repopulate the earth following an extinction event. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.
ActorsStarring: Hilary Swank, Clara Rugaard-Larsen, Rose Byrne, Luke Hawker, Tahlia Sturzaker, Maddie Lenton, Hazel Sandery, Summer Lenton, Jacob Nolan
We never find out why or how, but the world’s population has been wiped out entirely and turned the planet into a poisonous wasteland. Apparently, some of humanity had anticipated this and created a a facility that houses thousands of embryos to repopulate earth with. This facility is run by an Articial Intelligence, which presents itself as a robot called Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne). She raises a single embryo, Daughter (Clara Rugaard), to adulthood, teaching and testing her along the way.
As Daughter ages, and gets a bit bored stuck in the facility with only a robot for company, she becomes more inquisitive as befits any teenager. Mother can always rationalise things, but Daughter isn’t always convinced about everything anymore. When one day a Woman (Hillary Swank) knocks on the facility claiming to have been shot by a droid just like Mother, Daughter lets her in and hides her from Mother. This event raises all kinds of flags – Mother had always told her there were no other humans left, and that the outside air was filled with contagions, so Daughter starts to question what she has always know as truth. Mother does, of course, find out about Woman before long and the two clearly don’t see eye-to-eye, but there are also various inconsistencies in each of their stories leaving Daughter in limbo as to whom to believe or trust.
I Am Mother is a movie with various ideas running in parallel, and not everything quite works, but overall it is a success as a small-scale sci-fi with big ideas. There are some plot points that are a bit too ‘convenient’ for a modern sci-fi – as an example, Mother powering down every night for many hours to recharge, giving Daughter ample time to secretly roam around the facility, which proves to be inconsistent with the A.I.-run world the movie creates.
On the other hand, Rose Byrne’s voicing of Mother is excellent, combining soothing ‘human’ platitudes with a robotic logic and hollowness that keeps you guessing. The set design and cinematography are great (the outside world scenes show its low budget more). The pacing works, even if the switch to Action Mode takes away from properly developing any of the big ideas, and Hillary Swank’s character remains far too one-dimensional, resulting in the finale being a bit thin despite its attempt at a final twist.
Overall, it is a well-made small-scale sci-fi by first time film director Grant Sputore; let’s hope he gets an opportunity to show off more ambitious sci-fi work in the future.