I Am Mother is familiar, but still manages to entertain
An underground bunker to protect from the contaminated world above. The “friendly” robot with a hidden agenda. The naïve human who doesn’t seem to have a clue about what’s really going on. While there are many borrowed sci-fi genre elements that make up I Am Mother, it still manages to deliver an entertaining experience from start to finish.
A robot named Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) grows a large number of human embryos in an underground bunker in an attempt to repopulate humanity after an extinction event. She raises a single human embryo, Daughter (Clara Rugaard), and cares for her over the years. The story picks up with Daughter when she is 12 years old. It’s at this time when she begins to become increasingly curious about the outside world above her. Mother continues to insist that the world above is uninhabitable due to contamination from the extinction event.
Things get interesting when Daughter lets in a wounded woman (Hilary Swank) from the outside. With the arrival of this woman, Daughter has no choice but to question the validity of Mother’s declarations about the outside world. The back-and-forth mind games take place here as Daughter gets caught between her Mother’s agenda to keep her underground and the woman’s stories about the outside world.
Right from the beginning, it’s no secret that Mother is holding back the truth from Daughter. There’s no question that the script is written in ways to ensure that the audience is continuously asking the question, “What is Mother REALLY up to here?” Even though this sense of mystery is blatantly put right in front of our faces, this approach works well to keep us guessing all along the way. As we try to guess at Mother’s true intentions, we slowly learn the truth alongside Daughter as she pieces together the reality of her situation.
While the plot moves along at a nice pace with a few good twists and turns, it’s not exactly a groundbreaking story by any means. As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of components of this plot that feel very familiar. 10 Cloverfield Lane and Moon immediately come to mind. Borrowed plot elements are nothing new in the sci-fi genre (or any genre for that matter). But if you are looking for something completely original, you won’t find it here with this story. And while this may be a knock against the film, don’t let it deter you from seeing it.
The strength of the film lies in its performances, the visual effects and its set pieces. Particularly, Clara Rugaard is excellent in the lead role of Daughter, where she spends most of her screen time alongside a robot. It’s her convincing performance that helps us believe the authenticity of the relationship between Daughter and Mother. Hilary Swank is solid in her supporting role, helping to increase the tension between the three main characters as the truth slowly unfolds.
Visually, everything in this film looks amazing. From Mother herself to the imagery of the apocalyptic world, the visual productions look like something out of a big-budget blockbuster. I never know what to expect from these Netflix Originals when it comes to quality, but this one definitely holds its own in the special effects department.
I Am Mother will likely be forgotten over the years when looking back on these types of indie sci-fi films. In fact, there’s a good chance that it will be overlooked by many at the end of this year. But it’s still a worthy sci-fi film with plenty of positive qualities, and one of the best of its kind to be released by Netflix to date.
I Am Mother is available for streaming on Netflix.