You can’t buy love. But can you build it?
Set in the present day, I’m Your Man tells the story of Alma (Maren Eggert), a scientist who is offered a job evaluating a new line of humanoid companions. After her boss manages to convince her with some mild bribery, Alma agrees to bring the cybernetic Tom (Dan Stevens) into her home for a period of three weeks in order to ascertain their value as romantic mates and potentially the rights they deserve sociologically. Although she’s skeptical (and even resistant), Tom never wavers from his desire to make her happy, forcing Alma to re-examine what she believes to be the nature of love.
Co-written and directed by Maria Schrader, I’m Your Man is a fun and philosophical film that asks some big questions in surprising ways. While the film could potentially unravel due to its high concepts, the film manages to sell its premise and draw the audience in with genuine affection. Admittedly, much of the film’s effectiveness is largely due to the utter charisma of Stevens, who sells Tom with such adorable charisma that you never really question the fact that this woman in this robot seem to be falling in love. (In fact, in the film’s greatest achievement, you’re even rooting for them as a couple.)
At the same time, this is very much a film that wants to explore what love actually means. While the film acknowledges the social implications and dangers of becoming too obsessed with items which aren’t authentic, there is a charm that plays out in this relationship as well. Can a person love a thing as much as it does another human? In truth, this could be argued that this is already the case. If the act of love involves in our investment of time, than where we put our focus should be indicative of what we care most about. For example, rather than invest in our in-person relationships, we frequently spend our days connecting more deeply with our cell phones then we do with those around us. While it seems counter-intuitive, the nature of love has never necessitated that our hearts focus on another living person. (After all, didn’t one say that the ‘love of money is a root of all kinds of evil’?) If love is based on an emotional attachment (even an unhealthy one), I’m Your Man wants to investigate the boundaries of that argument.
What’s most interesting about Alma is that her relationship with Tom truly is beneficial to her soul. When she’s with him, she feels safer and she is more in touch with her own feelings. Because of his programming, Tom will always be affectionate, caring and instill emotional value into Alma. Starved for healthy friendships that encourage and empower, her time with Tom fills her with a security and joy that she is unable to find with others. In short, Tom makes Alma happy (“Isn’t being happy a good thing?” Tom asks repeatedly) As a result, the film makes a compelling argument for this type of connection, one without flaws or missteps.
However, as she grows closer to her robotic companion, Alma recognizes that loving an object has become a primarily selfish act. She’s not wrong in this conclusion. The type of love that has been programmed into Tom is one that allows its owner to focus entirely on being told how wonderful they are. Rather than challenge them towards personal growth, this romance becomes entirely self-validating and one-sided. The healthiest relationships ask both parties to offer grace to their spouse while, at the same time, accepting grace from them. There is an unconditional give and take to love that acknowledges imperfections in both partners and says that they are acceptable to them anyways.
Last time I checked, my iPhone can’t do that. (Though maybe there’s an app for that.)
Surprisingly witty and compelling, I’m Your Man is a strange blend of sci-fi and romance that absolutely makes you fall in love with its charms. Thanks to a delightful performance by Stevens and some compelling conversations about the true nature of love, the film surprisingly manages to sweep you off your feet while also forcing you to re-examine your priorities.
Now, back to checking my notifications.
I’m Your Man premiered at TIFF ’21 on Monday, September 13th, 2021