Sundance 2019: “I Am Mother” Review
Hugely into sci-fi, robots, and the post-apocalyptic world, I Am Mother was one of my most anticipated films at Sundance this year. Mother (Rose Byrne), a droid created to be a mother to thousands of human embryos and future children that would repopulate the earth follow our extinction cares for Daughter (Clara Rugaard) in their fortress hidden away from the world. This delicate balance is broken with the arrival of another human, only named as Woman (Hillary Swank). Her arrival to their home has thrown everything Daughter knows off balance and sets her off in a path that may lead her places she hasn’t known.
The premise of the film is spectacular and offered a chance for some social commentary, the nature of humans in general, and more. Where I have an issue with the film is that it starts really strong and then just whimpers out in a way. The slow pacing in the middle of the film drags down the momentum it needed to have to make the twists more impactful.
Clara Rugaard gives a breathtaking performance, holding the majority of the film on her young shoulders. She is the driving force of the film and what keeps you watching. She has mastered the innocence and purity of the role and uses that in each scene with such precision. Hillary Swank as Woman is great, but I would have liked to see her get a little more screen time and develop her character a bit further. I feel like that would have made the film a bit more impactful in general. Rose Byrne voicing Mother was a great choice. Her voice was ideally suited to convey the sweet and loving nature of Mother, with the slight undertone of disapproval.
There are a few quite memorable scenes in the film that really will stick with you long past viewing the film. One of them is a scene in which Daughter must remove a bullet from Woman while she refuses anesthesia. It is such an intense scene, and Hillary Swank is phenomenal in it. What also makes the film so memorable is the technology behind the film. The interactive screens she uses with surgery, or the scenes where she is taking an exam and these images come across the screen. It is simple but makes an impression on the audience that gives us a sense that this post-apocalyptic world could be not too far in our future, adding a sense of immediacy to the film’s premise.
While I Am Mother has a great premise, and the perfect casting, I think the film could be even better with a shave off of the almost two-hour run-time or a reworking of the pacing in the movie. Having the reveals be more impactful would elevate the film to what I know it is capable of becoming. Director Grant Sputore has a beautiful vision for this film and could make something incredible with a few minor tweaks to the film.