I’m Your Man
Reviewed for Shockya.com by Abe Friedtanzer
Director: Maria Schrader
Writer: Maria Schrader, Jan Schomberg
Cast: Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw, Wolfgang Hübsch, Annika Meier, Falilou Seck, Jürgen Tarrach, Henriette Richter-Röhl, Monika Oschek
Screened at: Critics’ link, NY, 9/19/21
Opens: September 24th, 2021
Everyone has an idea of what a perfect man looks and sounds like, one that’s rarely mirrored in reality. Part of the reason for that is that minor flaws and personality traits are what make people interesting and appealing, and no one wants to feel inferior to another person who exhibits only ideal qualities. Yet in trying to create something lifelike, scientists and inventors often strive to emulate what could only exist thanks to advanced technology far beyond human capacity. I’m Your Man shows the difficulty of accepting manufactured perfection as possible when it feels all too carefully designed.
Alma (Maren Eggert) is a dedicated researcher in need of money for her latest study. To obtain funding, she agrees to do something that doesn’t appeal to her at all, to live with a robot, Tom (Dan Stevens), who has been programmed to be her ideal mate in all ways. Unconvinced, Alma pushes back at every turn to Tom’s overly choreographed attempts at pleasing her, but slowly begins to appreciate his efforts and to question her own established desires and biases.
This is an intriguing premise for many reasons. Alma may be the worst possible test subject because, as someone who designs and conducts studies for a living, she is all too aware of her place in someone else’s research. That prompts her to fight back even more, intent on proving that she cannot be so easily analyzed or predicted. She doesn’t want to believe that others can understand her better than herself, and that someone else could help her discover things she doesn’t know about her own personality and instincts. Because she thinks she knows best, she stands in the way of fellow scientists’ efforts to make their own advancements, though the stubbornness that defines her behavior is probably most helpful in the end since it pushes the limits of Tom’s programming.
This film is an entertaining mix of comedy and drama, since there is an inherent humor to how Alma and Tom interact. He delivers intellectual statements in a matter-of-fact way that drives her crazy, and she responds bitterly and sarcastically, determined not to buy into the knowledge he thinks he has to offer. Every time he says something that is meant either as a compliment or to please her, Alma becomes more irritated, and it’s fun to see how Tom responds, demonstrating that he is capable of acclimating to her reactions even though it’s his initial comments that are supposed to win her over. Watching and hearing their banter is undeniably enjoyable, and it’s also enlightening since it helps bring out the motivations and inner feelings of both characters.
The concept of this film is appealing enough, but what really makes it work is the casting of its two stars. Eggert brings a fantastic bitterness and wit to Alma, one that makes her the ultimate challenge to authority who would detest someone with similar resolve who threatened to derail one of her studies. Stevens, an English actor known best for TV roles in Downton Abbey and Legion, impresses with a fluent command of the German language and the ability to imbue his character with distinctly recognizable traits that reveal him to be a truly remarkable scientific creation. The two onscreen are impossible not to find charming and endearing, and they help to elevate an already competent and intriguing film from Emmy-winning Unorthodox director Maria Schrader. Germany has already selected it as their official Oscar submission for Best International Feature, and it’s a solid choice that puts forward a clever idea brought to terrific cinematic life.
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+