"I Am Mother" Review

Updated on June 10, 2019
Logan Daniel Williamson profile image

Part-time Film Critic | Graduate Student at Columbia University

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I Am Mother delivers a complex thriller and a mostly air-tight narrative aside from a few plot inconsistencies. It tips it’s hand a little too much with its thematic elements, and the commentary itself doesn’t feel new or profound. However, from a technical standpoint, it works well.

I'd be remiss not to mention the aesthetics of the film, particularly the set-pieces inside the main building and the design and/or performance capture of the droid. For the most part, the filmmakers created a world that felt lived in and authentic, and there is a sort of mysterious tone and atmospheric horror to it.

That said, it is the relationship between Mother and Daughter that establishes it as a convincing setting. Daughter, played by the rising star Clara Rugaard, is incredible. She is asked to emote so much in this, and she comes off as though she has had years of acting experience. Mother, voiced by Rose Byrne, has a measured cadence that works amazingly well. I understand how Daughter might waffle over who to trust in this film, because Mother can seem quite endearing. Also, Hillary Swank as the unnamed woman also deserves her fair share of plaudits. All of the characters have great chemistry, and it fuels the pace and energy of this movie.

It is skillfully edited, and every scene is rendered well and transitions well. Although it took a few minutes for me to settle in, the film quickly picks up momentum and becomes quite riveting, particularly in the first half. It lost me some when they exited the main building. Some of the shots were obscure, and the art styles on the digital backgrounds looked poorly planned and unrealistic. It matters because it is the only visual information that the audience has of life outside the facility, and filmmakers could have modified the space to make it more of a spectacle.

My biggest complaint is that "I Am Mother" has almost no standout moments, and it never turns the dial up to 11/10 intensity like you might presume. It keeps you perpetually interested, but it never quite reaches a fever pitch. It contains slight iterations of tension throughout the film, but it doesn't crescendo. It has a series of twists and turns in the second half that don't amount to much, because it feels like previously trodden ground in regards to its message. However, it offers a somewhat different take on familiar dystopian motifs, and I commend it for trying to be its own thing.

Certainly this is better than many of the other Netflix films I saw this year, and it qualifies to get a theatrical release in my opinion. However, it still smacks of mediocrity, and I don’t know how it would size up against other comparable films in this genre.

Rating: 6/10

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    © 2019 Logan Daniel Williamson

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