I'm Your Man directed by Emmy, award-winning Maria Schrader, Unorthodox, and starring Dan Stevens as the perfect man, engineered in a lab to be a cross between a genius, a dream lover and my man Friday is the rom-com I've been waiting for.
What if We Could Imagine the Perfect Man or Woman?
In a world of ever-increasing, not so splendid isolation; ladies and gentlemen, is it time to summon a humanoid for company, champagne bubble baths and running through nature? What if the perfect man or woman does exist if we can imagine them?
These are the topics that I'm Your Man explores with humanity, tears and compromise.
Cat On a Hot Tin Roof
With echoes of Bladerunner and Ex Machina, this zeitgeist rom-com is deliciously combative in a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof sort of way as Tom (Stevens) acts out all kinds of classic seduction scenarios that fail to woo Maren Eggert's cynical, disaffected academic. Alma, who has reluctantly agreed to cohabit with him for three weeks as part of a top-secret experiment is having none of it.
Love and Loneliness in the 21st Century
Eventually, she softens her attitude to Tom but not before a lot of tantrums, throwing objects and generally behaving badly, as the film explores fascinating, existential questions about love, intimacy, compatibility, the nature of experience and the uncomfortable truth that loneliness is a huge issue in society.
How to Be a Better Lover and Companion
In our interconnected world, we have never found it harder to form meaningful, long-term attachments. Rarely, do we meet people organically, through friends, family or community and have the opportunity to get to know a prospective partner slowly. While some people for all kinds of reasons, make themselves unlovable. If nothing else, could humanoids teach us how to be better more compassionate lovers and companions?
The pairing of Stevens and Eggert on-screen is a surprise and a delight. At first, they appear like the odd couple. Especially when Tom malfunctions on the dance floor in an opulent, beautifully staged club that is straight out of Cabaret. When Alma first meets Tom she looks permanently startled and uncomfortable. Tom has no such problem. Stevens delivers a performance that spookily captures the glassy-eyed precision of the super-duper humanoid who has been engineered to be more than a match for his date. Tom has an answer for everything, coupled with a disarming intensity and razor-like attentiveness which I would suggest is catnip to any woman!
But let's not forget, Tom is also the product of Alma's personality, her likes and preferences and her good taste. The more time he spends in her company, attuned to her quirks and moods, the more human and less machine-like he becomes.
The Achingly Beautiful Pergamon Museum
When we meet Dr Felser she has recently become single. She is also a catch, which makes the story compelling from the get-go. Beautiful, sexy, sassy and highly intelligent, the heroine is a renowned archaeologist and expert in cuneiform and works in the achingly beautiful Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Berlin shines as brightly as its stars and cleverly mirrors the themes of I'm Your Man. There's a dazzling, efficient, emptiness to it all, and the constant juxtaposition of the traditional and the new, the mechanical versus the poetic and emotional.
A Touch of Ingrid Bergman
Eggert wafts around in sensuous flowing duster coats and shorts and looks like a latter-day Ingrid Bergman. Surely, such a woman wouldn't need to resort to a robot for a lover? She is also a bit of a modern shrew and a spoiled brat. When we first meet she has reluctantly agreed to take Tom home for three weeks to fund her latest research project. Her task, to assess whether a robot should be allowed to replace a human partner and have long-term rights and be able to marry.
I'm Your Man is first and foremost wickedly funny. It echoes the great screwball rom-coms of the thirties and forties with a whip-smart script. I could see Cary Grant playing Tom, but now, in the 21st Century, it is our answer to Grant, and what a surprise Dan Stevens is as a fantastic man! With a dash of Ken meets a modern Mr Knightley, Stevens starts out as a shiny, factory model dreamboat, with a dead behind the eyes replicant look and terrible chat up lines. Fortunately, he is a fast learner. Nor has anyone in my experience, managed to speak German like Dan and managed to make it playfully sound like linguistic foreplay.
What Women Want
Eggert's character is hard to like in the beginning. She tells Tom that she is in the 7% of women who don't melt at candle-lit, rose petal-strewn baths, romantic brunches or when she discovers that he has tidied up her own mess! She also demands sex when she is drunk.
The Battles of the Sexes
Come on Alma. Any man who tidies up is a keeper!
It's funny when Tom fights back and refuses to go to bed with her saying he is not in the mood when she is drunk and obnoxious. At this point, the balance of power between them starts to shift and Alma is surprised.
The Perfect Match
Schrader frequently borrows from real-life scenarios between couples to give the film a compelling sense of authenticity and to humanise Tom. In another scene, Alma walks in on Tom making her ex Julian a cup of coffee. What could have been a very painful moment as Julian asks to take back a picture they shared is hilariously turned into a triumph as Alma's ex is amazed that she seems to have found her ideal match. In a moment of rapprochement, Julian invites them both to his housewarming to meet his new pregnant and younger girlfriend.
Suddenly, Tom is becoming oh so human and rather indispensable, however, will Alma respond?!
However, it does get a bit Stepford Husbands when Tom is found patiently waiting in the rain getting soaked until the woman he is programmed to love comes back to retrieve him. He doesn't complain about her being late or accuse her of neglect or mental cruelty. Of course, if Tom was a flesh and blood man he would have left hours ago. It is interesting, that Alma realises that for herself and begins to thaw and modify her behaviour, albeit warily.
Grieving for the Loss of a Child
Some critics have suggested that Alma's character is not a relationship person. I disagree. While we don't know why her relationship with Julian ended; what we do know is that she is still profoundly wounded by it and that she is grieving for the child they lost and now it is too late for her to try for a baby. I think she is simply angry and down on love. Who wouldn't be disenchanted when your ex-lover is moving in with a younger woman and they are now having a child together?
The Meaning of Happiness
I'm Your Man is a thought-provoking, intelligent and beautifully conceived film. I also found it to be thoroughly engrossing. It deftly succeeds in exploring both traditional and futuristic ideas around love, courtship, convention and the very human need for intimacy, fun, companionship and to be heard in order to attain happiness.
A Thrilling Night at the Museum
While the scene where Tom playfully entices Alma to come to the museum at night is as thrilling and romantic as Pretty Woman because it feels authentic to Alma's character. If you can't find the one, is it wrong to buy a bespoke Ai model who gets all your little quirks and finds them adorable? Do we need to redefine what love is?
Along with its leads, I'm Your Man is a clever film that entertains and intrigues with consummate writing and the constant juxtaposition of the ancient, the modern and the moral dilemmas of our age. It combines dream-like elements of fantasy and suspense which add to the near future themes that it explores. The scenes in the forest when Tom stands motionless with the deer, and again in the museum before he and Alma kiss are enthralling in the way that Narnia is too.
As for the ending? Well, it is gloriously implausible, but the truly, madly, deeply hopeless romantic in me, will take it, hook, line and Rilke.
I'm You Man is Streaming on Curzon Cinema.
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