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I’m Your Man

****
2021

‘…a stimulating, grown-up film with an easy-to-grasp sci-fi conceit…’

If you only see on German-language science-fiction rom-com this year, then you’ll probably be watching I’m Your Man, Maria Schrader’s thought-provoking look at the idea of synthetic/humanoid lovers. What would it be like if we could create our ideal partner? How would such contrivance affect our everyday lives? Without too much in the way of distracting special effects, I’m Your Man doubles down on notions of individuality and identity, but also avoids any easy answers; it’s a stimulating, grown-up film with an easy-to-grasp sci-fi conceit.

Dr Alma Felser (Maren Eggert) agrees to take part in a three-week process of assessment; she’s to be partnered with her ‘ideal man’ in the form of Tom (Dan Stevens). Alma first meets Tom at a dating evening in a dance club, and although he makes a good first impression, a sudden glitch causes him to be carted off. Tom is rebooted, and starts attempting to woo Alma with rose-petals and bubble baths; he’s like any phone or digital device programmed to home in on its owner’s needs and idiosyncrasies. But Alma really doesn’t want a man, and says so; can the determined-to-please Tom find a way to win her heart?

Stevens is a versatile performer, with movie-star looks but also capable of a strange intensity; he’s ideal for the role of Tom. The scenes in which he passes himself off as a very intelligent human are funny, but there’s also genuine pathos in the way he accepts Alma’s regular put-downs. Eggert also plays a different kind of woman to the one we might expect in a rom-com; hard-edged, bitter, unsentimental and unwilling to accept society’s need to pair her off with a male. Schrader does well to tease out key moments; as Alma watches from her balcony, Tom manages to casually slide a painting into the back of a hatchback car, and she realises the possibilities of a fully-automated man.

There’s a mention of ‘metaphor as a reflection of society’ in one of Tom’s discussions of anthropology, and I’m Your Man does exactly that; the sci-fi story provides a metaphor of how two beings get to know each other, and yet understand that you can’t abandon your own notion of who you are to be what someone else might want or need. Nicely filmed on Berlin locations, and dealing with issues previously raised in movies like Blade Runner 2049, I’m Your Man is a successful German-language comedy that begs for a remake; in the meantime, this version hits the spot, for comedy and for philosophy.

I’m Your Man is streaming now in the UK, US and elsewhere.

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  1. Germans used to be good at sci fi. in fact, didn’t they invent it – Metropolis coming to mind. I kind of feel the perfect AI has been done to death. though maybe that still has to wait till Cameron Diaz and Jude Law get stuck in. Still, a decent foreign-language film is always welcome.

    • This one came out while I wasn’t looking, but glad to finally catch it. Yup, this updates a tradition of German cinema, and is a welcome alternative to The Holiday, which I’m still spitting out lumps of…

  2. This idea has been done to death in the SF book arena since the 50’s and more recently, in anime since at least the ’00’s if not earlier. So it almost feels like cinema is playing catchup.

    Which is ok. Because I like ketchup on my fries and even on my fishsticks.

  3. Romance with an AI, it reminds me the beautiful “Her” (and of course the “Blade Runners”). But I never heard about “I’m your man” (it sounds like a languorous love song by Leonard Cohen) and I’m now curious to see that. I know Maria Schrader’s work through her very good film on “Stefan Zweig”. And after reading your review, it seems she did well with that story too. Available on streaming you said ? Netflix ?

    • Vudu, Apple and Prime have it in the UK, it’s worth a look. Good spot; Her is absolutely the right film to compare this to. I’ll look for Schrader’s Zweig film, I’d be interested to see that so thanks for the tip!

  4. Hmm not sure how putting a painting in your boot makes an automated man any better than a real one, pretty sure Phil would put a painting in my hatchback if I asked him and he’s not automated at all. Sounds intriguing though so I’d see this if it pops up anywhere.

  5. I’m interested in what these kinds of movies that have us romancing the AI (or it romancing us) says about the way we live now. There have been lots of books and movies on this theme over the last decade. Are we just supposed to be getting used to it? Is it meant as allegory or should we be taking it literally?

    Avoids not avoid.

    • Thanks for the typo.I dodn’t think it’s to be taken literally, unless you can buy actual Dan Stevens androids in Germany. But it’s a metaphor for our desire to create a world around us for our convenience, moulded to our needs. There’s also something of American Gigolo here, the notion of a man who is so firmly set in his desire to be someone to others that he’s nothing to himself…

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