I'M YOUR MAN OR AM I?
But a lifetime of happiness! No man alive could bear it: it would be hell on earth.
--Man and Superman, George Bernard Shaw
Shaw refers to "man" in the universal sense i.e., no woman could bear it, either. Certainly, a research scientist, Alma (Maren Eggert), has an aversion to happiness. Her Dean at Pergamon University in Berlin has a possible solution. In exchange for Alma's cooperation by participating in an experiment, he would secure the funds needed for her own project.
Reluctantly, Alma goes to a club where a liaison introduces Alma to a handsome, young man, Tom or Thomas (Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens, who's fluent in German, portrays the character to perfection). She immediately recognizes his quirkiness, an overabundance of compliments and grand gestures that Alma finds off-putting.
Then, as they're dancing, he begins to repeat himself revealing that his programming has misfired. For Tom is a humanoid, an advanced robotic man who without the glitz has human-like qualities. The even more hesitant Alma, eventually agrees to have Tom live with her, so that she can study his potential as a lifetime partner.
From the moment Alma meets Tom, I'm Your Man (Ich bin dein Mensch) provides laugh-out-loud comedy. But Director/Co-Writer Maria Schrader (based on a short story by Emma Braslavsky) as well as her Co-Writer Jan Schomburg have more in store. When the uptight Alma--more reserved than her artificial companion--begins to see Tom has more than face value, her past becomes clearer. Even though she rebuffs his physical advances, her resolve begins to weaken--allowing for us to see her vulnerability, inner sadness.
Dialogue from the straight person, Alma has weight yet Tom's humorous zingers, sometimes sharp; on-target, off-sets her insistence on keeping an emotional distance.
The eye-catching lighting to set the mood--a scene in the University's museum sculpture room, at night, reflects the romance and Romanticism of an amorous moment between the pair--seen through the eyes of Cinematographer Benedict Neuenfels, the original take on a familiar theme (Making Mr. Right, 1987, e.g.) captures the imagination.
Risky though the premise may be, in the hands of Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens, the fantasy works. Although the movie recalls some Nietzchesque ideals, in fact, like Shaw's Man and Superman, the romance satirizes the quest for perfection. We grow to care about Tom because he isn't the paragon you might expect from a humanoid.
I'm Your Man does have a few shortcomings. A subplot involving Alma's father goes astray. However, the essence of the film, illustrated in Alma's evaluation of Tom, touches on her self-discovery--what it means to be human.
Rated R for brief nudity, language, sex and smoking. German with English subtitles.
Now playing at an independent cinema near you. Locals, see it at the Cape Cinema, Dennis, MA.
Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/wendy-shreve/movies or my previous blog site, featuringfilm.com
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