Tom is supposed to be Alma’s perfect life partner. He knows enough about her to ask the right questions, which topics she likes to discuss, and what she’s looking for in a man. He even knows how to please her physically. Alma’s not looking for a relationship, but agrees to spent time with Tom because she needs funding for her sociology research at a museum in Berlin. She’ll get it, but must live with Tom for three weeks and file reports on their interactions.
That sounds like the plot of a mediocre Kate Hudson rom-com, but “I’m Your Man” is different in that Tom isn’t human — he’s humanoid. He’s wired with an artificial intelligence algorithm so he can take the knowledge of her wants and desires, which were input by the computer scientists, and add to it by learning more about Alma as they spend time together.
The handsome, blue-eyed Tom knows his assignment and tries to please her by running a bath with rose petals and candles, cleaning her apartment, and making a festive brunch for her. But Alma isn’t impressed and doesn’t actually want any of that. When Tom tells her, “93% of German women dream of this,” she replies, “Guess which percentile I’m in?”
True to his programming, Tom adapts as he understands Alma better, while she warms to him a bit, but worries that she’s falling for a rendering, not someone she could have a genuine relationship with. That skepticism is what helps “I’m Your Man” rise above other custom-robot stories, like “Ex Machina,” to tell a more nuanced tale about the value of having a partner who anticipates and fulfills all your needs.
Maria Schrader co-wrote the screenplay and directed her leads to fine performances. As Tom, Dan Stevens reminded me of Jeff Bridges in “Starman,” as a non-human doing its best to speak and move like a person, but unable to pull it off smoothly enough. Meanwhile, Maren Eggert portrays Alma as a woman who has convinced herself she doesn’t need any romantic entanglement, especially with someone trying too hard to please her.
Watching them, I wasn’t sure whether I wanted the high-tech pairing to succeed or fail. Which is exactly Alma’s dilemma: technology can provide many things, but is love among them?
I give “I’m Your Man” a 7.5 out of 10. Opens today in theaters. In German, with English subtitles.