In days of yore, artificial intelligence was a far out and futuristic reality we read about in the science fiction writings of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury. But it has come to pass, society is having to accept this neighbourly technology. It’s becoming all too real.
“I’m Your Man” borrows from AI robotics in a romantic comedy spinning affection and technology into a charming film. It recalls Guillermo del Toro’s 2017 Academy Award winning film “The Shape of Water” which tells of an emotional relationship between a sea creature and a human woman. Sound weird? Never under estimate matters of the heart. Here Maria Schrader’s film imagines a robot’s affaire de Coeur with an analytical scientist researcher.
Dr. Alma Felser (Maren Eggert) is participating in an experiment to test if a robot can be programmed to be her perfect love partner. She is to evaluate what rights should be programmed into this latest model cyborg that will be adaptable in society. Humans have created robots, therefore it’s imperative humans, being in control, have superior knowledge over their creations. But is that so?
Consider if Alma discovers she could be the pupil and Tom the android (Dan Stevens, “Downton Abby”) teaching her some things about herself of which she was not aware. How far can, or should she yield her emotions when this artificial man attends to her human needs though he has no soul? Does she consult scriptures or Darwin?
Weighed by skepticism, Alma has really no option because her research funding could be withdrawn if she refuses to participate in this wild and weird experiment. So, she’s assigned to interact in a three-week exploratory affiliation with the robotic “man of her dreams”. Will it be a candlelight, wine and roses relationship? This is what intrigues and attracts the viewer to the film.
Alma’s accelerating alliance with Tom causes her to confront the limitations she’ll face as a human with natural needs. He’s a manufactured human, has a refined English accent and impeccable manners, the perfect partner programmed to respond to her every conscious and unconscious need for love and affection among other needs. It brings into question ethics, and will there be a deceptive aura wafting around their make-believe relationship.
Following the general pattern of a romantic comedy, Alma’s skeptical and reserved senses begin yielding to the human characteristics of Tom’s humanoid form. He’s eager to ensure her happiness though his initial attempts are awkward and ridiculous, putting Alma on the defensive. As a viewer, we have to wonder if it’s real or an engineering function which forms the appeal of this sci-fi “fairy tale” and questions what love and longing really mean in the modern age.
Director Maria Schrader was intrigued about a short story that was being adapted for film. “I didn’t know anything more about it than ‘woman meets robot,’ but that was enough to capture my interest.” She continues, “The premise was two steps from the classic boy meets girl formula. But they were two big steps: ‘girl meets boy,’ and ‘girl meets robot-boy.’ “
Consider a robot as a romantic partner, in reality a ghost in a machine with a soul and conscience. Alma, an expert in the scientific community, confronts the hard fact that as a human, she is responding emotionally to a programmed computer-generated drone. Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens (his dialogue spoken in German) are suitably cast giving plausibility to a budding relationship in a revelatory theory carried over from sci-fi novels.
A playful sci-fi rom-com with a cheeky title, “I’m Your Man” (in theatres and various platforms) presses the “enter” key to a smart concept, enlarging on themes of loneliness, love, longing, and our humanity. It’s a pleasurable film about what could become our real reality….robot romance.