12th Jun2019

‘I Am Mother’ Review (Netflix)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Luke Hawker, Rose Byrne, Maddie Lenton, Summer Lenton, Hazel Sandery, Tahlia Sturzaker, Clara Rugaard, Hilary Swank, Jacob Nolan | Written by Grant Sputore, Michael Lloyd Green | Directed by Grant Sputore

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I Am Mother is a Netflix distributed science fiction movie directed by Grant Sputore, who also penned the story, and with a screenplay by Michael Lloyd Green. Sputore put his heart into this, his feature film directorial debut. It is his story, he produced it, and he did a damn good job too. Green, as screenplay writer, delivered too. It is a collaboration between two obviously hungry and passionate creators who have managed to bring a modern sci-fi drama to the surface, something fresh, original and extremely well done.

The story of I Am Mother see’s us in a dystopian world, inside a high-tech futuristic bunker, after the apparent disintegration of humanity on the outside. The bunker is activated in order for a robot mother to attempt to repopulate Earth with the thousands of frozen human embryos ready and waiting to be developed into grown living human beings. The “Mother” is warm, kind and raises a young girl whom we know as “Daughter” in this bunker, keeping her safe and away from the poisonous world outside. Daughter is fed, educated and given a home by Mother, but when a woman shows up at the door of the bunker with a gunshot wound, things begin to alter, and Daughter begins to question why she is in the bunker, and what Mother is truly keeping her there for.

I mean, that synopsis is a basic one, as I don’t like to give too much away. There’s a lot going on here, things you can miss, and small details that make a lot of sense once you’ve finished the film and sit back to think about them. This is one of those movies that doesn’t spell everything out for you, doesn’t give you every last detail and answer, but instead allows you to ask the questions and leaves you curious about certain things, which is something I found refreshing and intriguing.

The production design in I Am Mother is terrific, certainly one of the best elements of the film. The bunker design is great. Details are everywhere and it all looks so slick and ultra-clean. There’s a definite starship feel to the place, with it’s white walls, blinking lights and future-tech amenities. Mother herself, voiced by Rose Byrne, is excellently designed. A cold steel robot yet with a warmth and humanity to her movements. The voice work really helps too, it adds that organic element to a synthetic machine. The two actors we actually see here are Clara Rugaard as Daughter and Hilary Swank as Woman. I hadn’t seen Rugaard prior to her role here, but I can definitely see this leading to bigger roles for her in the future. She carries much of the film on her young shoulders, and does so with a confident and emotional performance. She is questioning and loving, fearful and determined, and I thought the character was a complex and very well-played one. Swank, a terrific actor in her own right, gives a top-notch performance herself as the woman who shows up at the bunker doors and changes the whole story. She’s distrusting, afraid, tormented and yet has a warmth to her. The two of them play off each other very well in the scenes they share.

I thought the atmosphere was handled brilliantly too. There’s quiet moments, times where you watch as Daughter is learning things, or Mother is attending to tasks, and it feels like a story of survival and family. There are then moments of high tension and dread, a creeping feeling of impending catastrophe that often makes I Am Mother feel like it borders on something of a horror movie. The characters are so well drawn, and played with such conviction, that it’s impossible to not be impressed with this film. It looks slick, sounds fantastic, and the plot takes us on turns and paths that feel unique to the genre.

It is a story about both survival and loyalty, about fighting for what is right, even if it means making the hardest of decisions. I also liked that there are aspects in the film, details that appear to be possible mistakes, but when the bigger picture is revealed and you take it all in, you find that there’s a deeper meaning, something more. It’s a smart movie, and a very enjoyable one. I see big things in the career of Rugaard, and of director Sputore. I simply didn’t know what to expect from I Am Mother, and what I got was a splendid sci-fi drama that throws shards of horror into the mix on occasion, and it was a bloody good ride.

I Am Mother is available on Netflix now.

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