While it is a genre unto its own, you can tell pretty much any story you want in the backdrop of science fiction.
Debuting on Netflix tomorrow, I Am Mother is a slight but interesting coming of age story set in the back drop of a dystopian future and it works well enough as it navigates the well worn trappings of indie science fiction.
In the wake of a ravaged world, I Am Mother is a sci-fi thriller about a teenage girl (Clara Rugaard), who is the first of a new generation of humans to be raised by Mother (Rose Byrne), a robot designed to repopulate the earth after the extinction of humankind. But the pair’s unique relationship is threatened when an injured stranger (Hilary Swank) arrives with news that calls into question everything Daughter has been told about the outside world and her Mother’s intentions.
We can’t deny that I Am Mother falls into some basic filmmaking trappings it manages to rise just above the water line thanks to some very strong performances in this strong and distinctly female led film.
Co-Writer/Director Grant Sputore working off a script that used to be on the Black List gives us something that while familiar still has some genuine edge to it working rather effectively inside the trappings of telling a story with minimal characters. It looks good and moves us along the narrative in an effective fashion but on top of all that Sputore allows us to embrace a very claustrophobic world without having any of it feel truly stifling or restrictive. It’s takes confidence to build a world that is small but also incredibly detailed and nuanced at the same time. He allows for very little to feel bigger then it is and it’s a skill for inexperienced filmmakers to make sure that less feels like more.
While there are moments that do play a little basically there’s no denying that this is a calling for something bigger. Some of the twists in the film get a little too complex for its own good but the way the film calls into question the structure of the family unit and the dynamic of the mother/daughter relationship makes sure that even if we aren’t a fan of cold steel surroundings and science-fiction it’s saying more than the dystopian hell scape outside its safe confines could ever say as he has a strong knack for working with actors and getting the best out of them.
Clara Ruggard only has a handful of credits to her name at this early stage of the game, but we can see her coming into her own as we watch this film unfold. Yeah it’s a coming of age story and one that has been told before but when we get a twist like we do here and get this narrative with such a distinctly feminine feel yet not have it harped on makes it all the more effective. Sure it’s a female ensemble but it’s about those moments in life when you have to learn to think for yourself outside of the family unit and Ruggard makes us truly believe the ride that she is on.
Hilary Swank is solid as the mysterious stranger who ends up in there world and Rose Byrne as ‘Mother’ has a loving but cold tone to her voice performance which feels a kin to the HAL 9000 but with emotion.
All in all, I Am Mother makes for a solid debut film that may not light the world on fire from one end of things but it does enough genuinely important things right in the story to get us engaged as it marks the arrival of a storyteller and actor’s director that we should all probably be keeping an eye on.