Toronto International Film Festival 2021 Review: I’m Your Man

Written by Anna Harrison

70/100

German director Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man joins the endless ranks of movies grappling with artificial intelligence that have populated the cinematic landscape for decades, though this time it’s a romcom focusing on the connection between cuneiform expert Alma (Maren Eggert) and Tom (Dan Stevens, speaking German and executive producing), a robot perfectly designed to be Alma’s soulmate. Alma, ever practical, doesn’t actually want a perfect robot boyfriend—even if he looks like Dan Stevens—but is part of a trial group testing out the implications of this new invention. She approaches the whole thing with an air of skepticism, her mind having already been made up before she even meets Tom.

Of course, Tom was designed to be her soulmate, and even as Alma grows frustrated with his attempts to woo her—cleaning her messy apartment, throwing rose petals in a bath, making coffee—she finds herself drawn to his childlike wonder at the world, so at odds with her own cynical outlook. And how could she not fall for Tom, when he’s played with such charm and enthusiasm by Stevens? He adapts quickly to Alma’s prickliness, and even rebuffs her attempts at sex with a cheeky smile after she had previously said that relationships need friction. (In case you were wondering, he’s programmed to get an erection after a kiss, and no, he doesn’t get any physical pleasure from sex.) 

Toronto International Film Festival 2021

Schrader’s gentle romcom slant to such a thorny, complex issue by no means dodges the questions of humanity that inevitably arise when dealing with artificial intelligence; if anything, her more grounded viewpoint only makes the issue more approachable: I’m Your Man isn’t as highfalutin or intellectual as some of the other entries in the genre, but it tackles the questions inherent in its premise with just as much grace and intelligence.

Even as Alma lets her guard down around Tom, there remains a barrier between them, as she’s too aware of the lies she’d have to buy into if she let herself be wooed. Is Tom truly developing humanity, or is his algorithm just adjusting to Alma’s desires? Is there a difference? Alma studies the poetry found in ancient laws written in cuneiform, but refuses to let herself see the poetry and beauty in her relationship with Tom, too frightened of the possibility of getting suckered in by its ease. 

It’s a deceptively smart movie, lulling you in with easy chemistry and light laughs, and then unexpectedly worming into both your heart and your mind. The ending in particular stands out, not only for its ambiguity but the places it puts its characters in. Schrader never opts for an easy answer or resolution, even when one presents itself, and so while the rom and com elements are ever present and quite effective, there’s a deeper interrogation running under the surface that gives I’m Your Man an enthusiastic spark of life to it.

I’m Your Man Trailer

I’m Your Man was screened as part of the Toronto International Film Festival.

You can follow more of Anna’s work on LetterboxdTwitterInstagram, and her website.

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