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  • Carson Cook

Toronto Review: I'm Your Man

Courtesy of TIFF

Human-AI love — romantic and otherwise — has been fertile ground for science fiction for decades, typically skewing towards either existential dread or speculative whimsy. I’m Your Man — the latest from director Maria Schrader, and Germany’s submission for this year’s Oscar for Best International Feature Film — positions itself closer to the latter, but with enough of the former to result in a truly thoughtful rumination on love and loneliness.

Maren Eggert stars as Alma, an anthropologist on the edge of a breakthrough involving cuneiform tablets who agrees to participate in an ethics study in exchange for research funding. The study? She has to spend three weeks living with Tom, an android designed specifically to be her soul mate, and make a recommendation as to whether Tom and his humanoid AI brethren should be approved to enter human society.

It’s the sort of high-concept approach that could easily fizzle out in cutesiness, but in Schrader’s hands (working from a script she wrote with Jan Schomburg) it becomes a smart, melancholy romantic comedy. It helps of course, to have two stellar leads working in tandem to balance both sides of the emotional coin. Eggert is excellent, working with Schrader to take an archetype we’ve seen a little too often — “cold” and emotionally distant female intellectual — and give her a fully realized and authentic interiority. It’s not just a story about Alma “learning a lesson” in love, it’s a deeply felt character study that Eggert’s nuanced emotionality helps turn into a universal message about what it means to feel alone.

Eggert’s skill is well-complemented by her co-star Dan Stevens, who continues to exhibit seemingly limitless range as an actor (and, apparently, the ability to speak German!). As Tom, Stevens turns in not only an upper-echelon robot performance, but one of the funniest acting showcases of the year so far, with unparalleled comic timing and a mastery of physical control — he walks the line of irony and sincerity with winking confidence, and in the process makes us root for this unlikely pairing.

Schrader and Schomburg squeeze a lot of ideas into a fairly brisk film, and while some may be less compelling than others, it all congeals into an impressively cohesive whole that doesn’t feel like it takes the easy way out — I’m Your Man understands that the complexity of human emotions doesn’t lend itself to simple solutions, smartly deploying notes of catharsis and hope without ever feeling treacly or manipulative. Anyone looking for an authentic adult romance, with all the messiness that entails, will leave satiated — and perhaps wondering whether they can get a Dan Stevens robot of their own.


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