TIFF Review: 'I'm Your Man' Looks for Love in the Algorithm Directed by Maria Schrader

Starring Maren Eggert, Dan Stevens, Sandra Hüller, Hans Löw, Wolfgang Hübsch, Annika Meier
TIFF Review: 'I'm Your Man' Looks for Love in the Algorithm Directed by Maria Schrader
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Algorithms are all around us and they're shaping the world more than ever before, even seeping into our dating lives. The algorithm in dating apps and websites ingests the information we provide to them — through divulging our likes and dislikes in questionnaires — and spits out our perfect partner. But what if it was taken to the extreme? What if our dream partner was custom built for us? That's the reality in Maria Schrader's I'm Your Man. Co-written with Jan Schomburg, the film tells the complex love story between a humanoid robot and an ordinary woman, asking many questions about what it means to be human with depth, humour and wistfulness.

Alma (Maren Eggert) works in a museum conducting a philological study, but in order to obtain the funds she needs to continue, she must first participate in a three-week study of a program creating humanoid robots tailored to a person's unique character. Tom (Dan Stevens), a gentleman of high intelligence and an excellent rumba dancer, is designed to be Alma's perfect partner. Being a part of this program means taking Tom home, like a guinea pig testing out the newest model. With his wide-eyed, robotic demeanour and constant smile, Alma feels uncomfortable in his presence and she says that love doesn't interest her. Tom, however, will try to challenge that by being the ultimate romantic. It's comedic to see them spar with words as their differences become impossible to escape — but the things that separate them also bring them closer together. In a film all about loneliness, the imperfections in Tom's dream-guy disguise create a film that's very melancholy. As Alma begins to open up to him more and their relationship changes, love begins to grow, but it's a beautiful human experience that Tom will never really know.

I'm Your Man is off-putting, because it's set in a world where you can no longer tell who is human and who isn't, but it also carries a light tone and this has a lot to do with its actors. Eggert and Stevens are playful together and have so much chemistry, which brings the comedy. Both actors are fantastic, but Stevens is particularly hypnotic. He has a cool, sensual poise, and every movement he makes feels choreographed like a dance — his transformation is fascinating to watch.

The film is slightly flawed with some unnecessary edits and unanswered questions, but it really makes the audience question if having the perfect partner is something we should be searching for. Tom may be programmed to fulfill Alma's longings and desires, but the algorithm will never be truly satisfying, as it can't identify with what makes us human. True happiness doesn't simply fall in our laps — and if it did, it wouldn't be fulfilling.

The 2021 Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 9 to 18. Get info about in-person and online screenings at the festival website. (Mongrel Media)