A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while I Am Mother is filled with explicit violence, they might be more concerned about the disturbing psychological dilemma faced by the teenage main character (Clara Rugaard). The film's tension lies in watching her grapple with potential and real emotional trauma and the threat of violence from her own Mother, a robot who walks and talks like a human. Kids could find the depiction of an apparently loving but potentially murderous robot mother too upsetting. A woman stumbles into the bunker with a bleeding gunshot wound, which is shown in graphic detail. A character shoots a gun at Mother, and Daughter threatens Mother with an axe. Both Daughter and Woman face danger from droids. One drug-free surgery scene, depicted in graphic detail, isn't for the squeamish, and a character swears intermittently, including "bulls--t" and "f--k."
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What's the story?
I AM MOTHER opens in a "Repopulation Facility" one day after what is called an "Extinction Event." Titles tell us there are no current human occupants but 63,000 human embryos on site. That all changes when a robot places one of the embryos in a makeshift, womb-like container and a day later a baby girl is born. The girl is raised, cared for, and educated in the fully equipped underground bunker by a robot she calls Mother (physically played by Luke Hawker with the lovingly maternal voice of Rose Byrne). As a teenager, Daughter (Clara Rugaard) is told she's the last human alive and the outside world is potentially toxic to her. But her sheltered existence comes crashing apart when a human shows up at the facility claiming to have been shot by a droid. The presence and story of the Woman (Hilary Swank) forces Daughter to question Mother's intentions and truthfulness. If she trusts the Woman, she must leave or destroy her Mother, the only family she's ever known. If she abandons the bunker, then she also leaves behind the other thousands of embryos who could help repopulate the earth, and whom she considers her brothers and sisters.
Is it any good?
Even if you aren't hooked by the imagined dystopian future or unhurried pace, you may still appreciate the tale's central psychological paradox and potential for social commentary. We worry about robots taking over our jobs, but how much more unsettling is the idea of robots taking over our most precious family roles, including that of mother? I Am Mother's script, which was generating buzz long before it got produced and premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (where Netflix picked it up), transforms the most loving and trusted figure in a young girl's life into a robot. With a human enough figure and an affectionate female voice, "Mother" is programmed to read and respond perfectly to the emotional states of "Daughter." But, alas, the robot cannot feel human emotion and is ultimately designed to serve a higher purpose than nurturing just one individual.
The way Mother has raised and educated Daughter to be technically competent and ethically principled might offer a view into what is considered ideal human knowledge and behavior. Compare her to the angry, defensive Woman, who stumbles into the facility and cracks Daughter's sheltered world. Enterprising viewers may also find broader messages in the story about what it means to be a good parent and raise a good child, the importance of family and belonging, and the intrinsic value of individual lives, or look for implications on social issues like homeschooling and embryo cryopreservation. In I Am Mother, humans designed the robots that are now designing the humans, and it's suggested that the failure of the human species was inevitable. All of these juicy propositions in the script are served by the film's futuristic yet claustrophobic set design, the director's focus on characters' expressions and reactions, and the actors' convincing performances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not the story for I Am Mother seems realistic. Can you envision a future where humans are fighting robots to ensure their own survival? Does science fiction have to be believable to be entertaining?
Do you think robots could do a better job at raising children than humans do? Why or why not?
Does the scorched earth portrayed outside the Repopulation Facility remind you of depictions in any other films you’ve watched? Which ones?
The actors playing Mother and Daughter aren't from the United States, yet they speak with American accents. Why do you think that is?
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