A scientist agrees to test a robot partner in I’m Your Man. Despite her best efforts, the robot might just be the key to her happiness.
Ich bin dein Mensch (I’m Your Man)
Maria Schrader (director and writer), Jan Schomburg (writer), Benedict Neuenfels (cinematographer), Hansjörg Weißbrich (editor)
Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw, Wolfgang Hübsch, Annika Meier (cast)
September 14, 2021 (TIFF)
What an eccentric and lovely film I’m Your Man turned out to be. The robots-as-lovers trope has always bothered me, and I’ve quite enjoyed watching films where the robots turn against their creators or owners. This film doesn’t turn out like that but it certainly gets one thinking.
At first, I was as skeptical about Tom (Dan Stevens), the robot, as protagonist Alma Felser (Maren Eggert) was. Sure, Tom looks lovely and dances very well, but there’s such a thing as being too perfect. Everything Tom says is over-the-top. During their first interaction, Tom compliments Alma using metaphors, and then recites her favourite poem verbatim. But where’s the feeling?
Alma only agrees to testing out Tom as a potential partner because it’ll help her get funding for her museum project. But the three weeks for the test seem interminable to her, especially once Tom moves in with her. He rearranges her apartment, marches around half-clothed, and tries to make small talk.
These all seem like perfectly normal things to do but Tom seems just a little eccentric when he does it. Alma simply can’t get over the fact that Tom is as human as a robot can be — but that’s not human enough.
Watching Steven’s performance as Tom, I couldn’t help but think of Brent Spiner’s Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Tom is pretty much Data, except more human-looking and slightly less robotic. But only slightly. I have to say, I didn’t expect much from a role that requires the actor to be a robot, but Stevens did a wonderful job. You can’t help but love Tom, not just because he’s sweet but because he tries so hard to make Alma happy. Honestly, we could all do with a little Tom in our lives.
One of the drawbacks of films that have just a slight sci-fi element to them is that actors can sometimes try to make up for the out-there aspects by acting too hard. Maren Eggert doesn’t fall into that category at all. She’s so natural in her delivery and her interactions with Stevens’ Tom that you almost believe Alma’s world is as real as ours. There’s a scene when Alma discovers Tom isn’t the only robot she’s met that had me guffawing. Eggert’s reaction is so real — and pretty much exactly what mine would have been in that situation — that I had to laugh.
Alma is relatable, and there’s much more to her than having Tom as a partner. Her job plays a crucial role in the plot and eventually gives her and Tom a reason to become closer. (Also, it was just great to see the inside of a museum, even if it was on my screen; I miss museums.) I also love that Alma is a slightly older woman. I hope we’re moving towards a world where it isn’t just nubile 20-something women who get to own the screen, because Eggert was fantastic to watch in this film. A woman in her forties looking for, and finding, love was great to see, and we need more of this.
There were a couple of cliché moments in I’m Your Man which I probably could have done without. But their treatment was unexpected, so I’ll give it a pass. The moments are also used to make the characters more endearing, and I can’t take umbrage to that.
The cinematography is really accomplished. You get a clear sense of the cramped and isolating apartment Alma calls home, as well as the sweeping wide shots of her stunning museum workplace. And there’s a whole sequence set in a meadow that was absolutely gorgeous to look at. I’ve somehow staved off wanderlust through the pandemic, but the shots of Berlin are making me desperate to travel again.
In the end, I was really surprised at how sweet I’m Your Man turned out to be. I’d categorise it as a rom-com with sci-fi elements. That’s not usually my cup of tea, but this film was so gosh-darn adorable that I can’t help but love it. The performances were perfect for the story, the cinematography was beautiful, and the central plot was relatable and relevant. If you’re looking for a comforting film in these troubled times, I’m Your Man is the best prescription.