The mere mention of a sci-fi movie from Netflix about artificial intelligence is enough to elicit an epic eye roll from most anyone. Netflix’s track record for original movies is far from stellar and adding in a well-worn plot device like artificial intelligence is going to lead to a lot of people scrolling or swiping past I Am Mother. Thankfully, first-time director Grant Sputore delivers futuristic visuals worthy of the big screen while writer Michael Lloyd Green keeps the plot twisting and turning so that it never feels fully like something that’s been seen before.
Relative newcomer Clara Rugaard, known simply as “daughter”, is tasked with carrying the vast majority of the film on her shoulders and never falters. With a performance that will draw valid comparisons to Sam Rockwell in Moon and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 10 Cloverfield Lane, it is safe to assume that we will be seeing more of Rugaard soon. Especially considering that she holds her own in every scene that she shares with two-time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank who delivers a strong performance that reminds us of why she won those two Oscars. And lastly there is Rose Byrne providing the voice acting for the Chappie-esque “mother.” Though not a wholly notable performance, it is certainly a dynamic one. Byrne manages to strike the right balance in the Mother character depending on what the script is calling for while never dipping into an uncanny valley area of robotic voice work.
Fans of science fiction movies will surely enjoy I Am Mother. The bleak post-apocalyptic visuals, futuristic technology and stark landscapes found in this film are all sci-fi staples. And there’s an endless supply of influences at work here. From The Matrix to Ex Machina to any of the aforementioned films. But Sputore and Green weave them into the film subtly and inevitably craft something that feels familiar yet new. If Netflix can deliver more films like this, they may just save themselves from the upcoming streaming apocalypse.