If you watched Maria Schrader’s I’m Your Man with no prior knowledge of its premise, you’d probably be blindsided by its stereotypical setup. A woman meets a man at lively nighttime establishment where they are greeted by a hostess before partaking in food, drinks and dancing. On the surface, it seems like any other first date in a romantic comedy or drama. But quickly, you realize that something’s different in this unconventional love story.
We soon learn that the man (Tom, played by Dan Stevens) is an android programmed to be the ideal man for his human partner Alma (Maren Eggert), who is knowingly participating in a test study. Soon, we also realize that the other patrons are holograms created to set the mood of a fun night out. For Alma, however, the experiment is simply a means to an end, as she rejects all possibilities of establishing a true romantic connection. As she brings Tom home to complete the study, his perfection is more annoyance than comfort. But whether she likes it or not, Tom is determined to fulfill his purpose.
If you think this is your standard issue “enemies become lovers” story, however, then think again. Schrader instead uses her perceptive screenplay to make resonant observations on human behavior and romantic traditions. A rose-littered, candlelit bathroom for example, would signal a sentimental moment in a cliched romance film. But here, it proves to be embarrassingly trite and unoriginal when it comes from the programming of a robot. Similarly, many other interactions challenge our expectations of the perfect “soulmate.”
Indeed, the film deliberately tries to be aromantic and serious. Yet, it still manages to be funny and depict a sincere chemistry between its main characters. This is largely due to the pitch-perfect performances from Eggert and Stevens. Eggert expresses her character’s growth with a subtlety and nuance that is crucial to the film’s resistance of phony or formulaic romcom tropes. Meanwhile, Stevens nails the deadpan humor of a robot trying to understand and simulate some of our most peculiar human attitudes and and feelings. As such, their burgeoning friendship feels organic and unique.
Ultimately, I’m Your Man thrills not based on “Will they or won’t they?” tension. Instead, it challenges the audience to look inward and realize the futility of seeking perfection in a partner and by extension, ourselves. In doing so, it touches on profound truths about love, happiness and what it means to be human.
I’m Your Man releases in select theaters September 24.