By Webster Tilton
I’m a little bit in awe of this movie. Everything about it was so clean and so smooth…and refreshingly plausible…Let me back up and explain.
Entertainment ceases to be entertainment if its predictable. You can fix this by subverting expectations, but eventually the subversion itself becomes predictable. Things get to a point where you have basically two options; the twist ending or the expected ending. Rare is the film where things end in a way that is satisfying and surprising but somehow not a twist. In this regard I Am Mother strikes the perfect balance.
My verdict up front: Watch it. You’ll be treated to a taught, tense, engaging, believable and immersive film that you’ll gladly recommend to other people. They did this one right folks, sit down and enjoy it at your earliest opportunity. What I want to say about this movie necessitates a plot summary, so; Spoilers ahead, be ye warned.
As the teaser will tell you, I Am Mother is a story about a human girl being raised by a robot after the extinction of the human race. Mother is a very gentile, tender and affectionate caregiver who teaches Daughter (no name given…why would you need one) until one day Daughter discovers something that wasn’t supposed to exist; a human survivor. And according to her, there are more survivors, and they’re all hiding from the robots; who look exactly like Mother. Daughter seeks more information from the Survivor by skulking around at night while Mother is recharging.
It was at this point that I began to suspect that the movie was heading down the all too familiar road, subversion or expectation…and then it didn’t. To my absolute delight it turned out that the truth was, brace yourself, more complicated than that.
Kind of. Giant Spoiler…they’re both lying. Mother lied about a ‘contaminant’ wiping out humanity (robots did it) and Survivor lied about their being a community of living humans. Everything Daughter was “getting away with” while Mother was “shut down” every night for recharging were orchestrated experiences to test Daughter’s reactions to this new scenario. Because Mother isn’t just one robot raising a human child in a lab, Mother is all of the robots. The nightly charging ritual, which seemed sadly convenient to me, turns out to have been faked for Daughter’s benefit. The Survivor really is a human survivor, but her survival was also orchestrated so that Daughter could learn.
It turns out that long-ago Mother determined that the human race was going to wipe itself out, so she took a hand and did it for them and decided to raise a new humanity that wasn’t quite so bloodthirsty. She achieves this by raising child after child, and euthanizing them all, until Daughter comes along and finally makes the cut.
So, does Daughter raise a ragtag army of survivors and fight back? No. This movie has a brain. That isn’t plausible when you’re one person and the rest of the planet is well-armed killer robots. It also isn’t desirable given that Mother is fixing the environment on behalf of a generation of humans yet to be born. Instead Daughter does the only thing she can do. She reasons with Mother that she is, after all, the one who survived all the tests and has finally satisfied Mother’s standards for what constitutes a human worth saving. Mother concedes that this is indeed the case and allows Daughter to destroy the drone body that she’s been raised by, knowing full well that Mother has an unlimited number of other bodies at her disposal. Daughter is left alone with her new baby brother and thousands of embryos to raise as she chooses. Mother did what she set out to do, and the humans get another chance. I sense that some people will be tempted to make a Noah’s Ark comparison here. Don’t. God never lied to Noah for the sake of a teachable moment…and Mother never promised that she wouldn’t wipe out humanity again.