“I’m Your Man”
Photo | Letterbox Filmproduktion
Utterly delightful is the only way to describe “I’m Your Man,” playing through Oct. 22 at the Crescent Theater and streaming on demand. To further describe it, this charmer is also a German robot dramedy, and it strikes the perfect note between whimsical romance and realistic, philosophical bummer. Dan Stevens stars as Tom, an idealized humanoid companion, while Maren Eggert plays Alma, a scientist who agrees to test pilot his suitability as a mate.
Stevens, who played Matthew on “Downton Abbey,” is a total dreamboat whose perfection is almost waxen and unreal, and therefore a natural choice to play an artificially created perfect man. His German-language performance is charming and droll, with a knowing gleam in his eye that completely sells the film’s concept. Tom was programmed to be Alma’s ideal in every way, based on a detailed series of questions and a highly sophisticated algorithm that learns from her reactions and continually improves. Those reactions, from a skeptical realist who has no more illusions when it comes to romance, are a vital ingredient in the magic of this film.
Alma is a dedicated academic who only agrees to participate in the robot study because it means she will get funding for her own research in exchange. Plus, she is the only single woman in the office they can find to do it. The brief dialogue exchange explaining this speaks volumes, and her face reacting to the situation cements your sympathy with her.
As dry and amusing as Alma is, once robot Dan Stevens, crowned prince of the uncanny valley, showed up, I was deeply smitten with this film. Some of his calculated attempts to woo Alma misfire hilariously, like when he draws her a bubble bath surrounded by candles. When she scoffs at this, the next scene shows sweet, affable Tom checking out the experience himself. He soaks in the tub, looking bemused.
But Tom does not remain entirely naive, and his profound, robotic intellectual capabilities prove more attractive than his romantic ones. He is a valuable research assistant for Alma’s project, and he is amazing at fitting a huge painting into a small trunk. This film boasts the perfect amount of robot-based humor, the ideal ratio of funny to serious situations to consider within the scope of AI participation.
Moments when you see Alma doubting her own resistance to him are very effective. When she is swayed, for various reasons, it is genuinely moving. “I’m Your Man” is witty and charming but also poses some legitimate questions about the nature of happiness and satisfaction. Alma posits dissatisfaction as a necessary ingredient to life. But we also see, as she gets closer to Tom, the possibilities are truly bewitching.
Like another really interesting film that follows the concept of AI as a life partner, “Her,” “I’m Your Man” asks if this kind of happiness and love really “counts” if it is coming from an artificial source. For Joaquin Phoenix’s character in “Her,” it very much counts. But Alma in “I’m Your Man,” a romantic German female, is not as convinced, although it is certainly tempting. That philosophical conundrum, explored with such a perfectly light and amusing touch, really makes this a special film.
The film’s ambiguity truly nails the tone all the way through. Many films come up with an intriguing concept and as we watch and wonder how they are going to resolve their cool idea, we sadly realize the filmmaker doesn’t know, either. Director Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”), however, is fully in control of this story throughout, and she makes it remarkably well-calibrated, delicately veering from droll to serious, much like Tom himself. The ending is perfect — wistful, romantic, intelligent, considered and deeply human.
“I’m Your Man” is playing at the Crescent Theater through Oct. 21, and streaming on demand.
New This Week:
“Dune”: Paul Atreides, a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence, only those who can conquer their own fears will survive. All multiplex theaters, HBO Max, Crescent Theater.
“Ron’s Gone Wrong”: Barney is a socially awkward schoolboy who receives a robot named Ron (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) — a walking, talking, digitally connected device that’s supposed to be his best friend. All multiplex theaters.
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