Saturday, June 22, 2019

I Am Mother

I Am Mother (2019)

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After a cataclysmic event wipes out humanity, a robot (Rose Byrne/Luke Hawker) is left alone in a bunker with thousands of human embryos. She raises one human child (Clara Rugaard/Hazel Sandery) as her own daughter, taking care of her and protecting her from the desolate outside world. That goes surprisingly well, until an outside person (Hilary Swank) shows up.


  • Humanity goes extinct (+1)
  • I really fucking love robots and there's a robot in the movie. Also, the robot is not CG but a guy wearing a suit designed by Weta and I think that's neat (+2)
  • Robot moms are actually a very good idea. What I imagine are the hardest parts of motherhood are incubating a fetus for nine months, and not murdering it during the first year of its life, two problems eliminated by having a robot raise the baby (+1)
  • Both Clara Rugaard as the daughter and Rose Byrne as the voice of the robot are fantastic and play off of each other really well (+1)
  • The writing, pacing, and acting from all three actresses does a great job building suspense and paranoia. Hilary Swank's character and the robot are both excellently manipulative, and their intentions remain ambiguous up until the very end, and even beyond. What exactly either character hoped to achieve is, arguably, open to interpretation (+3)
  • The real human drama of the daughter being trapped between these two enticing and dangerous mother figures is very engaging (+1)
  • The overarching themes about the inherent value of human life are interesting and fairly well explored (+1)
Total: +10


  • The kid being raised by a robot sort of reminds me of this really heinous experiment I learned about in first year psychology. The experiment went like this: baby monkeys were taken away from their mothers and raised alone in cages with two surrogate mothers, one made from wire with a bottle of milk attached, and one covered in a soft cloth with no milk. The primary findings of the experiment were that, even though the "wire mother" provided food to the baby monkeys, they actually spent more time on the soft mother. The other thing that happened is that when the monkeys grew up they were completely dysfunctional and couldn't interact properly with other monkeys. Where I'm going with that is, it's surprising to me that the daughter character could function socially when her entire life she had only interacted with a robot and old Tonight Show reruns (-1)
  • In addition to being extremely high functioning socially given her isolation, the daughter is also surprisingly blase about possible contamination given her upbringing. She is told that there is a deadly, deadly virus outside, and initially acts cautious about Hilary Swank, but later throws caution to the wind and touches her stuff. I get that this girl obviously really wanted to interact with another human, but... deadly deadly virus. One could make the argument that because she has never experienced anything from the outside world, she doesn't have a frame of reference for how dangerous it is. But then again, I've never personally experienced the bubonic plague, but I wouldn't touch anybody I thought might have it (-1)
  • Where does the food come from? There's a glimpse of some plants growing in a room at one point, and there's sooooort of an explanation at the end. But... is food brought in from the outside? If so, when does that happen? Or is food grown in the bunker? Doesn't that take a lot of work? Who does the work? (-2)
  • The bleak shots of the outside world, destroyed by human greed, are cool and all, but also kind of derivative. I get it, this is an Australian movie, you guys made Mad Max, well done, Australia (-1)
  • How the hell did a dog survive being stuck inside a shipping container for an unspecified but presumably non-trivial length of time, let alone for a decade and a half following a nuclear fallout? (-1)
  • It's disappointing to me that the daughter didn't just decide to team up with the robot. That's what I would have done. Then again, the whole point of her character is that she's supposed to have superior ethics or something and I'm a piece of shit, and I don't like that this movie made me realize that (-2)
  • Most of the twists are pretty predictable (-1)
  • That said, I wasn't really expecting the ending to turn out the way it did. That's because the characters are pretty much written into a corner and the ending that would have made sense is super depressing. So, the ending, not predictable but still a cop out. (-1)
Total: -10

Final Score: 0 thumbs up or down

Verdict: I Am Mother is a pretty solid little sci-fi horror/thriller, with an all female cast and some interesting ethical questions. It didn't blow my mind, and the plot twists were obvious, but it was definitely the best claustrophobic, paranoid, philosophical robot horror movie ever made.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Perfection

The Perfection (2019)

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A former cello prodigy (Allison Williams) returns to her mentor (Steven Weber) after taking care of her dying mother for nearly ten years. She meets her mentor's new protege (Logan Browning) and, despite the two of them having clear reasons for rivalry, they begin a relationship. The two women go on a back-road tour of China together and everything goes absolutely fucking haywire.

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to include a content warning, not for this review but for the movie itself, because there's some kind of startling shit that comes seemingly out of nowhere and might be upsetting for people. Some potential triggers in this movie include: self-harm (specifically cutting and attempted suicide), hand mutilation, amputation, vomiting, uncontrolled urination/diarrhea, and rape.


  • This is one of those movies that is broken up into "chapters", which ordinarily I find annoying and pretentious - if I wanted to read a book, I would - but because this movie feels like about four different movies, it works to ease the tonal changes (+1)
  • The cello is the most sexual of the string instruments (+1)
  • The chemistry between Allison Williams and Logan Browning is phenomenal, especially in the first two "chapters". Honestly, this movie hooked me with the promise of bugs in the trailer, and held me with the characters and relationship I wanted to know more about (+2)
  • There are scary bugs in the movie (+2)
  • The situation that the two leads find themselves in in the first half of the movie feels very organic. The performance from Logan Browning especially feels very real and makes it that much more upsetting (+1)
  • Up until the final chapters of the movie, I was left guessing as to who was actually an absolute fucking monster and who was just damaged (+1)
  • Actually, through pretty much the whole thing I was asking myself "where the fuck are they going with this". The plot keeps going in unexpected directions and the whole tone of the movie shifts several times, which is interesting. At no point did I feel confident that I knew what was going to happen. I've said it before but I need to stress that I am a jaded fucking asshole and I get really excited when I watch a horror movie that is even a little bit unpredictable. The Perfection went beyond that, surprising me almost constantly. I didn't even pick up my phone through the whole thing, and I'm the kind of person who checks my phone while I'm on my phone, so I'm giving it the coveted Golden No Phone Award that I just made up (+6)
  • It's pretty tame on the gore, showing plenty of blood but keeping the hardcore stuff off screen, which makes the one time they actually show something shockingly horrible and gross (+1)
Total: +15

  • While for the most part The Perfection is technically competent, there's something weird going on with the synch between audio and picture for the dialogue? With most movies that have any kind of budget, the audio is re-recorded after shooting, but it's one of those things that you never think about unless something went wrong somewhere, and something went wrong here. (-1)
  • The second chapter of the movie falls into the travel horror subgenre. As you can probably guess, travel horror movies are movies where somebody travels somewhere (usually either a foreign country or a remote domestic location) and something horrible happens to them. In this particular movie, it's two Americans having something horrible happen to them in a remote part of China. I have a certain disdain for this type of movie because it tends to frame other countries as, well, places where horrible things happen to people, feeding into American travel paranoia. That being said, The Perfection actually plays with this trope a little bit, touching on how travel paranoia can be overblown and more dangerous than travel itself, so I'm not going to deduct a full point here. Furthermore, this movie at least doesn't feature two white people having bad things happen to them in another country, so I'm factoring that in here as well (-0.25)
  • There are a couple of times where the film backs up to give more information by rewinding to a previous point, which is stylish but kind of tacky (-1)
  • As well, some of the cinematography (for example, in one scene a character becoming unhinged is signaled by the camera doing a full 360 degree flipsy centred on her face) is tacky (-1)
  • One of the characters loses a hand, rendering her unable to play the cello. She loses her right hand, and as horrible and traumatic as that is, most of the deft fingerwork of celloing is done by the left, at least for this particular person, while the right hand does the other part (sawing? I want to say sawing). Could she not have played the cello competently with a prosthetic? Why not? (-1)
  • Between the final villain being just cartoonishly evil, and the plot forcing the characters into the perfect position for the last shot, the ending is kind of clunky (-1)
  • There's a synth-pop cover of "Petals" by Hole at the end and I don't like it (-1)
Total: -6.25

Final Score: 8.75 thumbs up, plus the coveted Golden No Phone Award


It's pretty good! The two lead characters are interesting, and well acted. It plays with some tropes for several different horror subgenre. And there's some blood 'n' bugs, what I like to call The Big Two. It's also moderately disturbing, so for anybody not comfortable with the triggers I outlined at the start, and anybody who straight up doesn't like getting utterly fucked with for an hour and a half, I don't recommend watching it. But if you're okay with all of those things, give it a watch, says I.