Tom (Dan Stevens) orders a coffee and pastries in Berlin, the whole meal costing him four something euros. He charmingly gives the barista five euros, implying that he doesn’t need the change. There’s a blankness to his charm though, and that blankness is due to the fact that he’s an android prototype. A museum designs him to be the life partner to Alma (Maren Eggert), the establishment’s only single female faculty member. Scenes like this make viewers wonder what our loved ones do when we’re not around, but it’s equally interesting that she leaves him. If a university assigned me an android, the last thing I’ll do is leave him at a cafe.
But this film, Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man, mostly succeeds in explaining her hostile acts towards the poor male robot doing his job. This movie captures Alma’s reaction and behavior towards Tom, which does start out with the hostility I previous wrote about. There’s also her begrudgingly using him as a sexual object. He, surprisingly, turns down even though that’s part of his design. That climactic scene might make viewers want to scream to the screen. “Look, the robot is adding more human traits to his algroithm, pay attention”! But the film’s attention is mostly on Alma and the neuroses that wrap around her brain.
Alma is a perfect character for Eggert, who won awards for this performance and rightfully so. Eggert is an actress who usually fleshes out existentially difficult characters for another female director, Angela Schalenec. This time around, she uses those qualities in a hybrid of romantic comedy and science fiction. It’s an alternative to the alternative that somehow comes out as a conventional work. It’s also the weirdest criticism to say that a movie with android boyfriends take too long to be weird. but it makes for a happy moment when that weirdness comes in during the third act. Also to be fair, there’s enough weirdness in the second act.
During that second act, Alma’s Black boss touches Tom’s hair and comments on that reversal. Later on, Alma takes Tom to her rural childhood home where her father still lives, and the quiet moments in that act feel like fresh air. This act is also where Alma reveals the reason behind her hostile personality. And I’m of two minds as to whether that’s the best approach or if it was better to reveal the bomb under the table early on. The movie, then, asks its viewers to look for the humanity not just from the android but with its human characters. And we get that through the gaze that these characters use, full of yearning that humans have.