I Am Mother Review: Netflix Film Is A Self-Indulgently Bleak Sci-Fi Thriller

June 7, 2019 (Last updated: January 21, 2023)
Daniel Hart 0
Film Reviews, Netflix


Netflix film I Am Mother strays far too long in its miserable concept and leaves an emotional gap between the characters and the audience that cannot be ignored.

By default, Grant Sputore’s Netflix Sci-Fi film I Am Mother struggles to convey emotions on a human level, forcing the feature to rely on its concept alone. Clara Rugaard plays the daughter, and Rose Byrne voices the mother in a dystopian story about an incredibly intelligent robot looking after a young girl in a highly-advanced facility, with the human race extinct.

The story rips open when mother and daughter come across a stranger, persuading paranoid thoughts and wonder regarding the robot’s repopulation project. I Am Mother pits several chess moves to find answers; the Netflix film enjoys the ‘hide and seek’ moments, embellished in sci-fi themes as the daughter curiously questions her purpose and existence. The question of existence is prevalent in the sci-fi genre, and I Am Mother attempts to emulate the paranoid thriller Moon, with a race against time to reach the lead character’s objectives.

Despite the well-made interior of the core facility that the characters reside in, I Am Mother purposefully hones in on the depressive sci-fi angle to a degree where the tone often feels imbalanced. A relationship between a human woman and a robot, the only existing lasting relationship in the film, is not designed to serve the emotiveness of human interaction, but the Netflix movie abides by the glum rules to the extent that it reduces the story to a miserable pulp. The cinematography and visuals are not embracive enough to sustain your engagement like Blade Runner 2049, meaning Grant Sputore missed a vital jigsaw piece by providing character traits that the audience could care about.

Hilary Swank plays the stranger, suspiciously given the sweaty Alien look in an attempt to add some dissimilarities to the disinfected daughter who has lived in a facility that prides itself on organised hygiene. The stranger is barely a character, but more a forgettable plot device designed to allow the daughter to question everything she has been raised to believe. As an audience on the receiving end of the two human characters, it’s easy to prompt theories to a profound degree, but I Am Mother does not entertain wild twists, instead applying a straightforward story arc.

I Am Mother is by no means a car-crash for the suite of Netflix films. The premise, visuals, concept and Hollywood effort, plant further seeds into a growing minority that think the streaming platform is a waste of time and that Disney+ is somehow going to be the hero. This is a movie that platformed at Sundance 2019, so the credibility is there; however, its lacklustre, bleak approach limits its promise somewhat, giving it a real sense of shame. The sci-fi film is begging for a spark that works in parallel to Rugaard’s genuinely good performance, but the dull tones of the robot extinguishes any hope of excitement at all.

And it’s strange because the robot is mother-like; built for emotions and human connection, yet I Am Mother opts to ring-fence its emotional boundaries, opting for the same monotone conversations between both characters.

With the appealing marketing and stylish sci-fi premise, it’s half tempting to recommend I Am Mother as part of a binge-weekend, but I’d park it in your thumbnails for a rainy, snoozy day.

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