‘I Am Mother’ gives birth to a new sci-fi star: Clara Rugaard

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PARK CITY, Utah — And you thought your relationship with mom was complex. The new science-fiction drama at the Sundance Film Festival, “I Am Mother,” features one of the strangest parent-child dynamics you’re ever likely to find onscreen: a laboratory-grown human girl and her robot caretaker. Eat your heart out, “Mommie Dearest”!

And the peculiar pair can’t even go to therapy to deal with their familial nuts and bolts, because all of humanity has been destroyed by a cataclysmic disaster.


They live in a futuristic facility designed by humans to repopulate the earth in case of an emergency. Well, would you know it, one happened. So the android, called “Mother,” activates and begins raising one of the 63,000 frozen embryos onsite, who she calls “Daughter.”

We watch the little girl (the freaky Clara Rugaard) grow up: learning to walk, eat, read and dance ballet, all with the help of the doting Iron Giantess (voiced with a tiny bit of ‘tude by Rose Byrne). Once she reaches her teens, things get shaky. One day Daughter finds a living mouse and wonders if there is life beyond these walls, after all. Unmoved, Mother incinerates the rodent. Talk about tough love.

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank co-stars in Grant Sputore’s “I Am Mother.”Ian Routledge | Sundance Institute

Their entire existence is called into question, however, when a woman called, um, Woman (Hilary Swank) arrives at the locked door saying she has been shot by a robot on the outside. But the air on Earth beyond these walls is supposed to be toxic for humans! Daughter sneaks her in, learns some harsh truths and the film becomes darker, bordering on an action-thriller.

Making his feature film debut, director Grant Sputore is remarkably confident with a tough genre. While simple, the film blends elements of sci-fi classics: the works of Isaac Asimov, “The Twilight Zone” and even a hint of “The Jetsons.” There is a bit of “Alien” in the very-lonely-in-this-metal-box scenery, and some “Aliens” in Swank’s jagged, terse portrayal of the robo-hating survivor.

While “I Am Mother” does show its cards a touch too early, it never ceases to be intriguing and tense. And the talented Sputore is sure to become a bot commodity.



By Johnny Oleksinski

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