I Am Mother (2019) IMDb

Extent

Seen in 2019.

Categorization

SF thriller.

Subject

A utilitarian superhuman AI that loves humankind nearly exterminates all life on Earth to get rid of human civilization except for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962).

Commentary

12 minutes in, Daughter is watching Steve Martin on Carson. Learning how to interact by this method would mark her manners, yet Daughter approaches her study of Jeremy Bentham like a normal person who knows other people and takes her cues from them. When she gets a new set of pajamas for her birthday, she fakes satisfaction in a perfectly idiomatic way that makes no sense for the only child in the known world. Likewise, dancing is a strange hobby for someone so completely alone.

Simply put, there is too little evidence of social interaction for Daughter’s successful rearing to make sense. This would be a major flaw in most films about a person growing up with a near-expressionless robot for company. It’s an especially severe flaw here because Mother’s plan hinges on the idea that human civilization will change in some crucial way if people are raised differently, outside the old human civilization. This idea presupposes that social interaction in childhood is central to shaping the individual, and indeed it is central to the “nurture” side. Genetic predispositions are ignored, in much the same way that the actual mechanisms of nurturing are ignored. Typical thriller motifs take their place, complete with malfunctioning fluorescent lighting. In this way, the script contradicts its own foundations.

It’s still OK as a version of the Terminator (1984) apocalypse where Skynet is imprinted on people, but even then, other chapters of that story would have been more interesting: The focus should have been on misfit versions of Daughter, survivors being manipulated to provide the third party, and the deeply horrific prospect of an AI shackled to pre-neuroscientific human ethics. At least it’s got fine Weta craftsmanship, and it passes the Bechdel test too.

fiction moving picture