Near-future tale of a woman who accepts a male ‘companion’ robot played by Stevens is laboriously told and not really funny enough
Last modified on Wed 11 Aug 2021 14.01 BST
Directed by Maria Schrader, this was a crowd-pleasing favourite at the Berlin film festival earlier this year and its star, Maren Eggert, won the festival’s new gender-neutral best leading performance prize. But I was disappointed with a film whose crises and dilemmas seem laborious and essentially predictable; it does not fully work as sci-fi or satire or comedy.
We are in a world of the near-future (and the city of Berlin itself is certainly very plausible as its location). Eggert plays Alma, an archaeologist with an unhappy and frustrating personal life. She is persuaded by her boss to be a guinea-pig for a new hi-tech scheme: she will road-test a male “companion” robot, programmed to be infinitely considerate and obliging, which will attend to all her emotional and indeed physical needs. So Alma sceptically takes home this dashing humanoid geisha: Tom, played with elegant, fluent German by Dan Stevens. And after a rocky, angry start, after duly dismissing this soulless adventure in existential convenience, Alma inevitably comes to think that there could be something to it. In rejecting Tom, is she simply preferring the headache to the aspirin?
Of course, the gender-switch Stepford Wives story has been tried before, in the gruesome 2004 Stepford Wives remake, and this resembles Matt Kane’s recent midlife satire Auggie and Alex Garland’s more thoughtful and ambitious Ex Machina from 2014. But really, the acting and script are pretty broad, which makes it difficult to take it seriously, and it is not fully successful as comedy. Sandra Hüller (from Toni Erdmann) is good as the corporate director whose job it is to place these robots with their new masters and mistresses, and she delivers a twist that in some ways makes her the most interesting character; I wondered if she would not have been better casting as Alma.
I’m Your Man is released on 13 August in cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema.