There is no doubt, it is all in the eyes: an ice-blue look that is focused on you and promises satisfaction and loyalty without asking anything in return. This is love and Dan Stevens the humanoid robot is here to give it to us.
One step further than the ideal man is Stevens Tom, the product of a scientific experiment that designs artificial life that can act as the perfect romantic partner, and maybe one day even replace it. He is with the scientist Alma (Maren Eggert) who agreed to live with Tom for three weeks in order to convince the laboratories to provide her with additional funds for their own research project. She is pretty sure that she is perfectly happy as she is that this robot, this Thing, may not be able to give her what she wants – and she doesn’t even know what that would look like. But happiness, as we know, is a complex, unknowable thing: desire, urgency, necessity, and ambition merge, and what makes rational sense one second becomes the biggest mistake you ever made the next.
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German actress Maria Schrader returns to directing her third feature film, arguably her most extensive and exciting work to date. She takes stock of a short story of Emma Braslavskyand the script that was co-written by Jan Schomburgis what catapults “I am your man” incomparable in something diamond sharp – funny, hopeful, crooked, sincere and clever at the same time.
However, for the sake of clarity, it’s worth going over the brilliant titles that Schrader’s one-of-a-kind film is at least a Valentine’s Day for. Tom and other humanoids like him should make their chosen person happy – Jessica HausnerBotanical thriller “Little Joe” comes to mind with his persistent inquiry into how far one could go to experience this feeling of unadulterated bliss. If you’re targeting a relationship between a human and a non-human, then of course something like that “Your” or “Ex Machina” is woven into the DNA – except that Stevens’ Tom is more believable, more human and more seductive than any other AI characters. And then last year’s Amazon Prime Video anthology series “Soul mate” offered one of the earliest investigations into the danger and attraction of finding Your Person who is another human soul who promises to complete you. If you could would you do it At what price? Would you sign your life if eternal peace waited in your arms?
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Alma isn’t so sure. “You don’t care about love at all? Tenderness? Butterflies?” Tom asks her on her first night at home when she politely explains not only her skepticism, but also the simple satisfaction she finds in being alone. “Soon I’ll be saying and doing things you like with a much higher success rate,” says her superhuman lover – but there is a difference between telling about feelings and actually experiencing them for yourself. Eggert plays this tug of war with compelling subtlety, leads with her concern, but also blossoms emotionally in brief glimpses of unusual joy. It is loosely reminiscent of Schrader’s last directorial excursion with Netflix miniseries “Unorthodox,” what gave Shira Haas Her breakout role as an Orthodox Jew who discovers life beyond religion. It’s the tiny looks that surprise you, the adrenaline rush and pleasure that you thought were just part of fairy tales that suddenly color your world a little bit warmer. Alma says it best when Tom asks her about the wonders of female orgasm. “It’s like dissolving. You dissolve and are part of something bigger.”
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Though Alma would not have dissolved without Tom. This is without a doubt Dan Stevens greatest achievement in years – and the British actor’s first was delivered entirely in German. His conventional, angular appearance is hardly revolutionary, but Stevens uses his body language differently here. Those blue eyes, usually friendly and warm, are frozen in a moment, enslaved to the algorithms, and directing every other part of his body with a hypnotic sense of rhythm. There’s a kind of mechanical submissiveness that shows he’s not exactly like us, while a touch of discreet, open-minded humor proves that maybe it isn’t such a bad thing. The most desperate forms of love are usually framed in shades of sickly melodrama, but Stevens finds a way to get Tom to sip champagne in a rose petal-filled tub that looks like a razor-sharp comedic genius. “I am your man” proves that it is about the specific People (or non-humans in this case) and unique feelings that are brand new in any relationship and always more important than the scenarios, stereotypes, or clichés we think we know so well – and dislike.
Schrader’s thoughtful romantic study is more than a sardonic subversion of the tropics that we keep falling for. Addressing mundane neuroses and existential fears with wisdom and empathy, she leaves you guessing long after Alma and Tom stop looking each other in the eye. Romantic yet level-headed, charming, but always with clear eyes. A film that understands the grueling artistry of unrequited love, the guilt of happiness that doesn’t feel deserved, the selfish desire to just rip apart the entire set of rules in order to chase the incandescent joy, finally but fleetingly to understand the magic Finding another being that makes you feel like the best version of yourself. Who cares how you got there? [B+]
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