What do we look for in a life partner? Someone who complements us? Someone who challenges us? Someone who loves us unconditionally? Someone who makes us happy? Someone who’s great in bed? Someone who wants children or doesn’t want children? Someone who’s neat? A listener? Tall/short? Perhaps it’s a combination of many of these things. Now, what if you could get everything you want in a partner in a robot? Would you do it? That’s the question asked in the high concept German romcom, I’M YOUR MAN.
In exchange for receiving research funds for her studies, Dr. Alma Felser (Maren Eggert), an archaeologist at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, reluctantly agrees to participate in an extraordinary project where she has to live for three weeks with Tom (Dan Stevens, EUROVISION SONG CONTEST; THE RENTAL; COLOSSAL), a humanoid robot that has been designed and programmed to be her ideal man. The project’s highly efficient and ever-chipper employee (Sandra Hüller, TONI ERDMANN), assures Alma that Tom has been designed to her exact specifications based on a lengthy questionnaire and interview process that Alma had previously completed. Life with Tom, however, doesn’t start off well as Alma can’t get over the fact that Tom is a robot. Tom, for his part, needs to learn more about what Alma wants rather than what women in general want. It’s a bumpy road as the pair both learn what it is to be human.
I’M YOUR MAN is an absolute delight. Stevens notches up another terrific performance, not because he’s fluent in German but because he seems as comfortable doing comedy as much as he does drama. At one point, Alma asks Tom why he speaks German with a British accent (I wouldn’t know if he did) and Tom has a fabulous answer for that, which he delivers in a robotic deadpan. Hüller is wonderful too. Although she a busy actress, it’s too bad that we don’t get to see more of her work outside of Germany. Eggert, though, must have had the hardest job of the three actors as she had to be the straigtman to the other two. Fortunately, she plays the role to perfection and it’s not surprising that she received the Best Actress Award at the German Film Awards last year for her efforts. The film also took home awards for Best Director (Maria Schrader, UNORTHODOX) and Best Screenplay (Schrader and Jan Schomburg), and was selected as the German entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.
While there have been other films of late dealing with human-cyber relationships (HER and EX MACHINA come to mind), those films lean heavily into the sci-fi realm. Though it’s set in the very near future, I’M YOUR MAN doesn’t try to analyse the implications of human-android relationships too closely, though Alma does note that Tom cannot give her the one thing she may want — a child. Tom, of course, has a completely logical answer for that too. But like it is today, Alma’s circle of friends and family seem to take this technological advance with the same curiosity that one would have when looking at the latest smart watch.
Unlike American romcoms that try to wrap up their stories with a happily-ever-after bow, I’M YOUR MAN thankfully doesn’t do that. There is enough ambiguity in the ending to leave it up to the viewer to decide how Alma and Tom’s relationship will evolve. Even amongst my friends, we came up with a few scenarios that were all plausible.
I’M YOUR MAN opens in Hong Kong on Thursday (July 28th). It’s already played in many countries so if you missed it, you’ll have to wait until it comes to a streaming service. It’s well worth seeing!
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