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.