Review: Netflix’s ‘I Am Mother’ Questions the Idea of ‘Perfect’ Human Race
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” said Stephen Hawking. Certain episodes of the Netflix show Black Mirror have held a mirror at modern society, pointing out how the greed for technological advancements could strip us of basic emotions and pave way for an impending doom. I Am Mother, one of the latest additions to Netflix, further emphasises the grim truth.
Debutant Grant Sputore comes up with a highly intelligent sci-fi thriller that prompts us to think and reflect. A catastrophic event has wiped out humanity and a robot named Mother, dwelling in a high-tech underground research facility, has been put in charge of creating a population that is far superior than the one that’s been washed out. She strives to fulfill the task by growing an embryo and taking care of the child for many years.
Thus is born ‘Daughter’. It is uncanny that the first human of the supposedly superior race does not even have a name. It reminds one of Bird Box, where Sandra Bullock addresses the kids as Girl and Boy for the longest time, fearing that names might bring a sense of attachment.
Mother teaches Daughter life lessons. In one of the most cleverly done scenes, she throws a situation in front of her daughter, wherein the latter has to take an important decision. “Imagine a doctor has five patients, who each need an organ to be saved. A sixth patient arrives, and the person has the organs required to save the other five. Who will you save?” asks Mother. The answer drives the plot forward.
Before that, life comes in the form of a tiny mouse, only to be snatched away from the girl. However, little does she know that an unexpected and wounded visitor (Hilary Swank) would turn her world upside down. As one human tends to the other, terrifying secrets are dug out. The survivor tells Daughter that there are humans in the real world waiting for her and offers to help her escape.
Daughter finds herself in a painful dilemma – whether to believe a machine that she calls mother and that surprisingly demonstrates humane feelings, or break out from the cage and be one with her species.
She stumbles and bleeds, but does make a decision. As the camera closes in on her face before the end credits roll, the bleak reality hits us. Can a flesh-and-blood mother be replaced by a robot programmed by humans to display a few emotions? Ava in the disturbing Ex Machina was proof of the devastating effects of AI, and Mother, despite her calm and warm demeanor, makes us fear her.
I Am Mother hinges on some very powerful performances. Clara Rugaard owns her character as Daughter. We travel with her as she embarks on an impossible battle, feel for her as she struggles with her emotions and share in her loneliness in the secluded bunker.
Hilary Swank is exceptionally good as the survivor. She, too, is alone and isolation is what connects her and Clara. Not to forget Mother, voiced by Rose Byrne. The nameless, faceless bot raises a child with all the affection of a creator. Her jealousy in seeing another ‘motherly’ figure is endearing and frightening at the same time.
The film might not be as brilliant as Ex Machina, but it sure does make us dwell on one of Daughter’s questions – what if the perfect human race that Mother claims to raise is actually deeply flawed?