‘I’m Your Man’ Uses a Woman’s Relationship With a Robot to Explore Human Emotions
While men have fallen in love with alluring computers and humanoid robots in films like “Her” and “Ex Machina,” the roles are reversed in “I’m Your Man,” a German sci-fi drama exploring what it means to be human and how we connect with each other. Maren Eggert stars as Alma, a scientist who reluctantly agrees to live with Tom (English actor Dan Stevens, putting that German he studied in college to good use here), a robot programmed to be her dream man. In exchange for participating in the experiment, she is to receive the funding she desperately needs, but what begins as a nuisance in her life progresses into an illuminating relationship that challenges her thinking.
When we first meet the analytical Alma, she’s obsessed with work, not someone who one could see being easily romanced by any man, biological or synthetic. She’s still not completely over her break-up with her colleague, Julian (Hans Löw), when her boss, Dr. Stuber (Jürgen Tarrach), informs her that she’s been selected to participate in this robot partner trial. Adding to her stress is the fact that her elderly father (Wolfgang Hübsch) is in the throes of dementia. One would think that having a robot in her apartment catering to her every need would offer her some welcome relief, but Alma isn’t wired that way, and Tom is initially an inconvenience to her, even when he cleans her place. It’s a humorous moment when he quickly restores the apartment to its messy state, even offering to re-dirty the widows. Despite the quirkiness in the beginning, the film soon shifts to dig deeper.
“I just loved the character from the start,” Eggert told Entertainment Voice during a recent Zoom interview. “Alma is funny and grown-up and independent. I thought the script was funny and swift, and at the same time, turns into something melancholy and more thoughtful. I loved this mixture.”
Things shift after Tom meets Julian, who doesn’t know about the experiment. He invites the pair to a party being hosted by himself and his new girlfriend, who Tom and Alma both realize is pregnant. This news brings up past trauma for Alma, and Tom surprises her by perceiving her pain, almost emphasizing with her. From there, they grow close, but their happiness is short-lived, as Alma comes to the conclusion that it is unnatural for a human to have all of her needs met so easily.
“I’m Your Man” was written by director Maria Schrader and Jan Schomburg, who surpass expectations by writing emotions that are authentic, and even raw at times. Eggert and Stevens deliver sensitive, nuanced performances, and have great chemistry together. According to Eggert, the fact that they filmed last year when the threat of Covid loomed over production helped cement their bond. “This thought that this could end tomorrow kept us closer together somehow,” she explained.
Watching them together, it’s hard to believe that Eggert and Stevens only met two weeks before filming. Recalled the actress, “It was kind of like a blind date, and we didn’t know if this would work or not, but it did work out very well. I’m very thankful, because my character wouldn’t exist without him in the way she does, and the other way around. We were really dependent on each other on the set and with developing these characters. He’s funny and serious at the same time, and a really nice actor to work with.”
Eggert does an excellent job bringing to life Alma’s internal struggle as her pragmatic self wrestles with her growing feelings for Tom. In a particularly poignant scene, she reveals how she feels her relationship with Tom is like a play, as she finds herself doing things like covering him up at night, knowing full well that he can’t feel warmth. But aren’t all relationships like plays, in a way?
“I think we all have these adaptive behaviors,” answered Eggert. She pointed out that we often find ourselves playing games in relationships. “We all have these strategies, so it’s not so very different from the programming of a robot… In the structure of behavior in relationships, you draw parallels.”
Watching “I’m You Man,” many will no doubt see the benefits in being partnered with a synthetic human programmed to meet (almost) all of their needs. But for those who find the idea off-putting, they are not alone, as Eggert admits that she could imagine not having a robot for a partner. “I couldn’t accept a robot being in front of me and knowing all these things about me. I would go mad.”
“I’m Your Man” releases Sept. 24 in select theaters.