Should robots be given the same rights as humans? Should they be allowed to marry, to hold down a job, or own a home? At first blush the answers to each of these questions is obviously no. However, by the end of the clever sci-fi romantic dramedy I’m Your Man the answers don’t seem quite as black and white as they did prior to being introduced to Tom, an incredibly handsome synthetic humanoid who oozes charm and can fulfill his partner’s every need (in and out of bed).
Dan Stevens (Legion, Downton Abbey) is perfectly cast as Tom, a robot designed to fill the role of a romantic partner and intellectual equal of one specific individual. The cutting-edge technology that created Tom is in its testing stage, and he’s been programmed to satisfy Alma (Maren Eggert), a research scientist who’s agreed to be part of the study in order to secure funding for her work.
Alma’s tasked with allowing Tom to live in her home for a three-week period at the end of which she’ll submit findings to the company who created Tom. Her feedback will help assess the robot’s programming as well as answer key ethical questions including whether robot partners should have a place in society.
Alma questions her decision to be a part of the study from the get-go. She’s uneasy in Tom’s presence and refuses to view him as anything other than a robot who’s programmed to please her. Despite the fact he can engage in stimulating conversations concerning her research on ancient relics, Tom’s very existence grates on Alma’s nerves. He’s too responsive to her needs and far too enthusiastic about taking on domestic duties, which sets Alma on edge.
Yet even with the odds so stacked against him, Tom remains undeterred and continues to attempt to win Alma over. He quickly adjusts his programming according to her likes and dislikes; there will be no critiquing her driving, romantic baths are a turn off, and a messy apartment makes Alma happy while a clean one upsets her.
Tom tweaks his actions to better fill voids in Alma’s life she doesn’t necessarily recognize exist. His adjustments gradually cause the frosty Alma to warm up to the idea of sharing her life with this attractive android.
Dan Stevens does a fabulous job of playing a robot created to be someone’s romantic ideal. Stevens conveys an otherworldly “other” vibe without ever pushing it too far. Tom needs to fit in. This mechanical lover/companion has to be accepted by general society as just another ordinary human being, which means Stevens has to hit a very small sweet spot in making him seem made of flesh and blood but also not a living, breathing man.
Alma goes from standoffish and skeptical to protective and caring over the course of her time with Tom, and Maren Eggert’s multi-layered performance allows us to feel what it would be like to participate in this bizarre experiment. Tom’s incapable of feeling empathy, and watching Eggert portray Alma’s acceptance of the limitations of this situation is fascinating.
Writer/director Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man is a kind of edgy romantic comedy complete with a twisted take on a meet cute. The humor comes mostly from Alma’s initial determination to not buy into the concept of a robot as partner before slowly evolving into acceptance of his presence in her life by letting her heart overrule her head.
There are deep, thought-provoking questions at the heart of I’m Your Man, but it’s also possible to just enjoy this charming genre-bending film on a purely surface level thanks in large part to the compelling lead performances.
MPAA Rating: R for some sexual content and language
Release Date: September 24, 2021
Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Studio: Bleecker Street