German science fiction film “I’m Your Man”, which was recently selected as the German entry for Best International Film Oscar, cheerfully and thoughtfully plays with its familiar but endlessly compelling story promise. Although it understandably falters a bit as reaching to its conclusion, the movie is still a delight in many aspects, and I really wonder how it will look to us as we go through more technological advance during next several decades.
At the beginning, the movie promptly focuses on its heroine’s extraordinary situation. Mainly because she was promised to get some substantial support on her ongoing academic research, Alma (Marren Eggert), a recently divorced archaeologist, agreed to be a participant in the evaluation of a custom-made android model for companionship, and she is quite impressed right from when she is introduced to her android, who is named Tom (Dan Stevens). While there is some inherent awkwardness due to not only his deliberate English accent but also his unflappably courteous attitude, Tom does look like a real guy on the surface, and there is more surprise for Alma as she comes to learn more of how the company which manufactured Tom considered almost everything from the very start.
Although she still has some reservation, Alma eventually agrees to have Tom in her residence for next three weeks while occasionally monitored by a supervisor played by Sandra Hüller, a wonderful actress mainly known for her memorable comic performance in Oscar-nominated German film “Toni Erdmann” (2016). Hilariously ever-cheerful on the surface, Hüller ably suggests that there is something more behind her seemingly thankless character, and she is very amusing as her character ebulliently describes to Alma on how the company tries its best for helping Alma during her following evaluation period.
Nevertheless, Alma’s first days with Tom feel strained to say the least. Although Tom is already willing to be quite intimate with Alma, Alma still regards him as an object she has to accommodate for a while, and Tom has no problem with that while doing his best for Alma as an entity specifically programmed for comforting her. For example, he dutifully fills the role of a caring companion in the very next morning, and there is a brief but uproarious comic moment as he did some reverse action when Alma is not so pleased with his little cleaning job on her residence.
Mainly because her mind has mostly been occupied with her ongoing academic project, Alma prefers to interact with Tom as little as possible, but then she cannot help but a bit touched by his programmed acts of care and affection. He can patiently wait for her outside while she is doing her work as usual, and he has no problem with being presented as her new colleague to others around her, though he turns out to be too efficient and knowledgeable as your average artificial intelligence.
Of course, there eventually comes a point where Alma finds herself crossing the line set by herself from the beginning, and the mood accordingly becomes a little warmer and gentler than before. As coming to care about Tom much more than expected, Alma begins to struggle with her consequential emotional dilemma, and the screenplay by director Maria Schrader and her co-writer Jan Shomburg accordingly comes to reflect more on how we should regard the relationship between Alma and Tom. Sure, Alma can say that what she is feeling toward Tom now is indeed real, but, as shrewdly pointed out later in the story, Tom is more or less than the walking reflection of her yearning and desire, and that makes her more conflicted than before as the time for final evaluation is approaching.
During its last act, Schrader and Shomburg’s screenplay attempts to give the conclusion to the questions it has raised along the story, but its delivery of answers is not exactly satisfying. The subplot involved with Alma’s increasingly senile father is rather unnecessary except reminding Alma of how she may age and die alone without no one to lean on, and the movie seems to hesitate a bit to go further along with its two main characters around the point where Alma finally makes her own conclusion while also recognizing the counterargument for that.
Anyway, the two lead performers of the film are constantly engaging in their effortless comic chemistry. Marren Eggert, who deservedly won the Best Leading performance award when the movie was shown at the Berlin International Film early in this year, is simply fabulous in her character’s quiet but palpable emotional journey along the story, and her jaded attitude is complement well by the clean-cut appearance of her co-star. As already shown from his hysterically exaggerated comic supporting turn in “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga” (2020), Dan Stevens has considerable comic talent, and, besides handling his German dialogues in the film fairly well on the whole, he wisely plays straight as much as possible during many of his key comic scenes with Eggert.
Overall, “I’m Your Man” may not reach to the level of “Her” (2013) or “Ex Machina” (2014), but it is still a delightful piece of work which deserves to be compared with other similar films including “Making Mr. Right” (1987), a small little gem which is also about the odd but intriguing relationship between a woman and a male android. In my inconsequential opinion, that film and “I’m Your Man” will make a nice double feature show, and I recommend you to try that someday.