In a world as lonely as ours, many people just want to find someone who makes them happy. But in a world as twisted as the one we inhabit, a corporation will find a way to exploit that loneliness for a profit. Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man approaches this concept with understanding and tenderness, while exploring the questionable aspects of replicant beings. A meditation on human nature and how we relate to one another, the film will leave audiences warm and fuzzy while pondering the numerous topics it grapples with.
The concept of having the “perfect partner” created for you is the inception of Schrader’s film. Alma (Maren Eggert) is an archeologist who clearly appreciates her own space. She prefers things tidy and avoids disruption. When she is picked to participate in a study on human cyborgs designed to be one’s perfect companion, she approaches it with skepticism from the very start. The study is meant to last three weeks and will help determine whether these robots will receive similar or at least partial treatment to humans. Her manufactured man is Tom (Dan Stevens), a handsome and polite cyborg who appears to be completely genuine. Alma immediately keeps him at an arms-length, deciding that this whole thing is a mistake. She still has to interact with him for the next three weeks, however, during which he will attempt to fulfill her every wish.
Schrader’s awareness of emotional connection versus logical reasoning is astounding, making for a complex study of human nature. Alma’s analytical mind keeps her at a distance from Tom from the beginning. She concludes that he is nothing more than a machine, so why should she invest her time in caring for him? Tom, on the other hand, though built for the singular purpose of providing Alma with happiness, is much more complex than she originally perceived. Referring to his operating system every time she dismisses him as a robot, she begins to question whether or not that means he can’t feel. Tom’s operating system programs him to emote and react in a specific way, but isn’t that how humans are wired, just with organic matter instead of machinery? There is no one true answer to the question of whether robots can truly feel things, and Alma struggles with this throughout the story. However, Schrader never turns her film into an exploration of science or religion. Instead, she uses the premise to investigate the contradictions we hold as humans who are constantly seeking connection.
Dan Stevens shines as Tom, playing him with the perfect balance of robotic precision and cutting honesty. It is his genuine nature that works to win Alma over, along with the audience. The viewing experience is a delight to witness mostly as a result of the dynamic between Tom and Alma. They are almost complete opposites due to Alma’s pessimism and Tom’s never-ending optimism. Beneath these layers, however, Schrader works to unpack the makeup of each of these characters, resulting in empathetic people. As their relationship develops, the film meditates on our abilities to trust our hearts versus our heads, thus opening ourselves to love.
Blending all of these elements together results in a truly captivating film. This is partly thanks to Stevens’s earnest performance, which matches so well with Eggert’s uptight Alma. Although the ideas circling the narrative sound complex, Schrader crafts a digestible romance that carries much within it. The sincerity between the actors and the story itself creates a relationship that is easy to fall for over the runtime. If Dan Stevens’s striking blue eyes won’t win you over, the tenderness of I’m Your Man surely will.