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.

Giraffe

Written by Michael Clawson

80/100

Stimulating docu-fiction that contemplates the attachment of history and memory to physical spaces, and what’s lost when those spaces are ignored or destroyed. 

An ethnologist arrives in a seaside community that finds itself on the cusp of significant transformation. A collection of homes are about to be razed to make way for a tunnel that will connect Germany and Denmark, and the ethnologist, Dara, is there to document what the infrastructure project is about to relegate to history. Between interviews with people who have to relocate and visits to dusty, abandoned homes that still hold their previous owner’s intimate possessions, Dara strikes up a relationship with Polish construction worker, a younger man who, like her, is in the area only temporarily for a project. 

Hartman films from a studious remove that draws attention to her precise, often static framing. I was absorbed by her visual exactitude and the coldness in her craft, and love how long she lingers on character’s faces, allowing their humanity to really sink in. Schanelac regular Marren Eggert has a small role, but Hartman appears to have more in common with Helena Wittmann than Schanelac.

Giraffe Trailer

Giraffe is currently awaiting distribution and is not yet available.