The sci-fi and post-apocolyptic bottle movie is becoming a genre all of its own. Since Duncan Jones turned a $5 million budget into one of the thought-provoking sci-fi Moon, filmmakers have realized you can say a lot and still make it look good with just a futuristic bunker and a clever concept.
I Am Mother, Netflix’s latest sci-fi offering, has both those things. Almost all of the film takes place inside a secure facility where a robot named Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) raises a human child simply named Daughter (Clara Rugaard). Mother has provided an idyllic upbringing for the girl, who represents the hope for humanity with thousands more embryos ready to become her little brothers and sisters. She learns everything from engineering to medicine to ethics (that latter subject key to the questions the film will eventually raise).
Grant Sputore’s Australian/American production is constructed around plot twists as much as characters, and while some of them are exactly what any sci-fi fan was probably expecting, there’s enough original thought to keep the tension level high. Everything Daughter knows is thrown into question by the arrival of a nameless woman (Hilary Swank) whose description of the outside world doesn’t match Mother’s. (There’s definitely a little 10 Cloverfield Lane going on here.)
Daughter must balance her loyalty to Mother, to her future siblings and to her species, all while trying to uncover the truth. The film’s most familiar sci-fi tropes about our future robot overlords have been examined in more interesting ways before. Still, I Am Mother offers just enough of a twist on an old futuristic tale to be enjoyable, and its small cast buoys the film above most small-budget sci-fi. And Mother herself joins a long list of memorable movie A.I. like Gerty and Hal, with a personality all her own.
Director: Grant Sputore
Writer: Michael Lloyd Green
Starring: Clara Rugaard, Hilary Swank, Rose Byrne
Release Date: June 7, 2019 (Netflix)