Alma is a research scientist at Berlin’s acclaimed Pergamon Museum where she is searching for evidence of lyric and poetic works in Sumerian cuneiform tablets.
Alma agrees to take part in and provide analysis toward a project in which a company creates humanoid robots to meet individual owners’ specific needs and desires. Although after a first meeting with the robot designed to match her characteristics, Tom (Dan Stevens), Alma decides she wants nothing more to do with the project, her boss persuades her to continue with the experiment.
Tom is everything Alma wants — on paper — but she can’t enjoy the experience of living with him, because she can’t overcome her perception that his behaviour is merely the output of an algorithm, albeit one that can adapt to circumstances and learn from her negative responses. And the more perfectly Tom tailors his behaviour to her apparent wishes, the stronger become Alma’s frustration and sense of the entire arrangement’s futility.
I’m Your Man concerns itself with what relationships are and what we think they are, how we evaluate them, and how we are driven to try to understand what lies behind behaviour, which we tend to think of in terms of whether it suits us. But is it the behaviour that really matters, or the motives behind it?
The film also raises the question of what constitutes connection. What if we could have a companion we could trust implicitly to care for us regardless of our moods, disappointments, frustrations, or angst? What if we had the kind of 100% surety of fidelity in body and mind that we seek but know only too well is often a vain hope in human society? And what if we never had to worry about becoming a burden as we age or our health fails; what if the question never arose of whether we would continue to receive the best standard of care from our devoted other? What if we could swap thinking we know the one we love for absolute certainty?
I’m Your Man doesn’t try to answer any of these questions. But, with companion robots already a reality, the issues that the fictional Alma’s experience with her companion robot raises about our humanity provide plenty of food for thought in the guise of an entertaining tale of an asymmetrical relationship.
Screening at Palace Cinemas.
—MICHELE E. HAWKINS