With technology rapidly advancing as the solution to even the most basic human tasks, director Ariel Martin’s sci-fi short The iMom takes “what if” to a chillingly stark place.
Set in a not-too-distant future, robotics has evolved to the point of public consumption. Realistic in both appearance and reaction, the affordable iMom (Matilda Brown) is the latest innovation in aiding new parents with the daunting task of child rearing. Diapers, feedings, and even nurturing can now be accomplished with these surrogate mothers.
The story revolves around an aloof single mom (Marta Dusseldorp), who spends more time on her touchscreen than with her two children: Sam (Karl Beattie), an emotionally neglected victim of school bullies, and her newborn baby girl. With iMom to do the heavy-lifting, the mother leaves the kids in the automaton’s care as she goes out to a party. Sheepish about his feelings for iMom, the dour Sam eventually develops a kinship with the machine that he never found with his real mother. What follows is a slow philosophical build which questions both what becomes of humankind when we take away what it is to be human and the inherent downside of technological excess.
The Satirical Singularity
Reminiscent of past robot-themed fare such as Blade Runner and Ex Machina, Ariel Martin, who also wrote the screenplay, handles the subject matter with the same moralistic irony found in Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, to great effect. The film begins with commercial snippets touting the advantages of the iMom unit, highlighting the self-serving need for such a machine through sardonic testimonials given by American portrayed iMom users. It is an effective device used as a ballast to weigh the pros and cons of the narrative while also building the world in which the story takes place.
With the main story set in Australia, the look at modern family dynamics since the advent of being “connected” through devices rather than face-to-face interaction plays a powerful role in the way the mother interacts with her son Sam. Uncomfortable and disconnected from emotional bonds, both characters in their own way represent the harm caused when that natural link is curtailed by a technological buffer. With parents distracted by personal pursuits, children become just an object to own and to be cared for by other objects.
Beautiful in its crisp, yet not overly stylized appearance, The iMom doesn’t quite reach beyond the boundaries of the story being told. Dark and moody, the film sets the right tone, allowing the quiet moments to keep the pace. The acting is strong throughout, most notably when Sam interacts with iMom one on one. Matilda Brown also portrays the role of robot with a vacant charm, sympathetically drawing the viewer in regardless of preconceived notations laid out by the plot. The final act, albeit subtle in execution, hits with the impact of a sledgehammer once the credits roll. Although, it is a conclusion some may come to early on.
Potent, insightful and affecting, Ariel Martin’s The iMom plays with robot tropes in a way that would make Issac Asimov raise an eyebrow.
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Spent most of my life watching and discussing movies. Writing is a way to keeping the conversation going with the rest of the world.