Netflix review: I Am Mother

I Am Mother is the latest SF offering from Netflix. Starring Luke Hawker, Clara Ruugard, Rose Byrne and Hilary Swank, here’s the blurb:

“A teenage girl is raised underground by a kindly robot “Mother” – designed to repopulate the Earth following the extinction of mankind. But their unique bond is threatened when an inexplicable stranger arrives with alarming news.”

I Am Mother is a tense SF thriller, made all the more powerful by its limited cast. The plot to pretty narrow and the locations are limited: this is an SF movie that instead plays to its strengths. Instead, the movie is directed by the limited cast – mainly Mother and Daughter. How their relationship develops is interesting and at times chilling.

A note on the world building, which I think many SF fans will enjoy. There isn’t really much of it in I Am Mother; we’re essentially thrust into a typical post-apoc setting, of a type familiar to most SF readers and viewers. Essentially, this is a world similar to the Terminator franchise but without the warfare. The robot designs are familiar too; you can almost imagine I Am Mother taking place somewhere within the Terminator setting, some small part of a greater experiment.

The movie also explores the difference between organic and machine intelligence. The Mother of the title is a distributed intelligence network, and as the story develops the practical realities of such a lifeform are examined. Mother plays for the long game. Her lack of compassion is a necessity, and her long-term plan is almost Machiavellian. Her manipulation of Swank’s character is chilling and extreme, but only by human standards. To Mother this is just another part of her strategy to repopulate the Earth. Or is it? I was left with doubts about this. The machines, and their intentions, appear direct and straightforward on the surface, but there is certainly room to doubt some of what Daughter is told. Given what we learn Mother is capable of, how can we be sure?

Overall, I Am Mother is a solid SF thriller. It doesn’t break the mould in terms of setting or plot, but it’s very well made and engaging. I’d definitely recommend it. 

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