Many rom-coms usually consist of a girl-meets-boy storyline… well, this German rom-com doesn’t quite follow the same formula, as the boy in question is a robot. Alma (Maren Eggert) is a hard-working archaeologist who’s offered to participate in an extraordinary study, that is to live with a humanoid robot for a few weeks as part of a deal to secure funding for her research. The said-robot named Tom has been designed with her specifications, as in what she would find ideal in a man, hence his handsome appearance in the form of Dan Stevens, plus his British accent (apparently she finds men speaking German with British accent attractive).
The first meet-up at a restaurant is especially delightful and fun to watch. Alma is escorted by the robotic company’s representative (Sandra Hüller) who takes her to her table where Tom is waiting. Given that Tom has been designed to make his client happy, he’s immediately puts on his charms and flirtatious mode. I love Alma’s reaction, a mix of pure bewilderment, skepticism + perhaps also astonishment, of this handsome droid. She launches into a series of quizzes for Tom, from something like ‘do you believe in God?,’ favorite poem, to impossible mathematical deduction, all of which Tom answers perfectly.
The dynamic between Eggert and Stevens works well here. Now, even though he looks like a perfect specimen with his deep blue eyes, there’s a certain ticks, such as slight stiff movements and weird head gestures that reminds us he’s out of this world. Alma makes sure to put Tom in his place… that he is NOT a human and ought not be treated as such. Tom is patient and tolerant of Alma’s condescension, but remains undeterred in winning her over. In a way it’s not totally dissimilar to a tug-and-pull relationship of real couples when one is more interested than the other.
Directed by Maria Schrader, the tone is mostly pretty light though she doesn’t shy away from exploring deep, emotional pathos such as loss and crumbling disappointments. I’ve never seen any of her work, but she’s directed the first season of Netflix’s UNORTHODOX. Schrader also co-wrote the script with Jan Schomburg, though the story itself is based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky.
The sharp screenplay offers a perfect blend of comedy and heartfelt human drama. There’s a hint throughout of Alma’s previous relationship with his colleague Julian (Hans Löw) and we find out later in the second act of a certain loss Alma encounters that contributes to her rather bleak view of romance. It’s a poignant moment that elevates the film far beyond the run-of-the-mill, superficial rom-coms.
I love that the script never descends into slapstic comedy with Tom’s droid antics. There is a moment where he rescues someone during a party that would make some guests suspicious as to whether he possesses certain super-heroic ability, but it’s all organic to the story.
This is the first time I saw Maria Eggert and she’s perfectly cast here and I sympathize with her character right away. She’s definitely a smart, strong, independent woman, but there’s a certain vulnerability that makes her feel real. In his first foreign film, Dan Stevens proves once again he’s a terrific, versatile actor who shines in everything he’s in.
As the internet speak would say, he always understood his assignment. He was truly the MVP of the Eurovision movie as a closeted-gay Russian singer… and now he’s portrayed one of the best, most delightful movie robots ever! I really hope he continues to spice things up in his career with intriguing roles. Shout out to Sandra Hüller as well who’s memorable in few hilarious scenes, one of them is quite a surprising twist that made me go ‘whoa!’
Now, I do have a quibble about the rather rushed ending. After a relationship breakthrough [I won’t spoil what that is], Alma somehow got cold feet and decides she’s done with the whole experiment. I was really curious how Schrader would end the story, but let’s just say it feels a bit rushed for me and somewhat anti-climactic.
Still, the good far outweighs this slightly underwhelming ending. This is definitely my favorite film about human + AI love story since Spike Jonze’s HER which was far more emotional and heart-wrenching. I’m Your Man is the official German’s submission for the ‘Best International Feature Film’ category of 2022 Oscars. Now, I think it’s pretty rare for a romantic comedy to win Oscars, I think last time it happened was Annie Hall in 1977 (Oscar experts, feel free to correct me).
In any case, I highly recommend this one… a lovely gem of a scifi rom-com that’s witty, fascinating and delightfully entertaining. I sure hope to see more of Schrader’s work in the future.
Have you seen I’M YOUR MAN? What do you think?