How would you feel if you could build your perfect soulmate? Everything is tailored to you – personality traits, looks, and even down to how you like your breakfast in the morning. Would you jump at the chance to ditch dating apps and have a build-a-lover? At the beginning of I’m Your Man, Alma (Maren Eggert) walks into a party and meets Tom (Dan Stevens). Everything seems fine as they dance, but when Alma asks him questions, Tom begins to glitch. Upon further inspection, Tom is an android, and Anna is a part of a three-week test for a future rollout. If she completes it, she’ll get funding for her scientific research. As she’s completely tunnel-visioned following her career path, Anna discards any instance of love or inkling that something robotic could invoke that out of her. But as director/co-writer Maria Schrader would show, there is more on the surface than just your standard rom-com.
At first, Alma is creeped out by Tom’s stay at her apartment. As I’m sure anybody would – while his movements resemble a typical human, he still goes about things as a machine would. When Tom eats, it’s not to savor the taste or for nourishment. Tom cleans up Alma’s workspace, and when she disapproves of it, he can recount how it was explicitly from memory. There’s a moment where Tom goes into a coffee shop by himself. He tries to blend in, ordering an extravagant latte and asking people about internet trends. The existence of Tom sticks out like a sore thumb in contrast to Alma’s character, who has a specific schedule and wants to exist in that.
That’s where the acting of Eggert and Stevens, paired with the writing of Schrader and Jan Schomburg, comes in. Tom could have easily been a comical, almost porous, linchpin. Stevens brings considerable laughs to the film, tinkering around with his mannerisms and no sell reactions, bouncing off Eggert’s cynicism. As the film goes on, Anna urges Tom to deviate from this algorithmic spell. But he reminds her that he is made to fill the spaces her previous romantic partners couldn’t. It’s impossible for him to feel complex emotions – only what his CPU interprets love to be. It’s often frustrating, but in the time of need, it’s comforting.
As I’m Your Man progresses, Alma’s emotional wall comes down. Eggert meets the moment with a longing and deep sadness to a past instance where a previous relationship with a co-worker, Julian (Hans Löw), fell apart. He goes on with a new relationship, house, and baby on the way. All the while, Alma has the skeletal makeup of what could have been. She was encouraged to make a “backstory” about how she and Tom met in a different state and time when they could have met when they were younger. Alma likens Tom to a boy that she had a crush on during her youth, but even that is window dressing. Tom’s presence is just a stand-in for a potential love that was never realized.
In the end, Alma’s character ponders what it means to be loved conditionally. If humans, given our imperfect makeup, are intended to have every need met without expectation. Would it rob us of learning and unlearning what love itself means over our lifetimes? Perhaps we would become robots ourselves. I’m Your Man strikes the right tone of poignant questions about human need, where artificial intelligence fits in, and a romantic comedy where an unlikely pair learns something different from each other.
Photo Credit: Bleecker Street