Interface Romance

The streaming rental "I'm Your Man" is a slyly observant tale of love and robots.

Interface Romance
Maren Eggart and Dan Stevens in “I’m Your Man”

The Nut Graff: From Germany, an android-human romantic comedy that’s thoughtful, funny, haunting — and expertly played. ***/****

“I’m Your Man,” a German film fresh off the festival circuit and available for rent on Amazon, Apple TV, Vudu, and elsewhere, is a minor-key surprise: A gentle and slightly mournful comedy about love, loneliness, and intelligence, artificial and otherwise. It also features two excellent performances in two opposing registers, human and robotic. Maren Eggart plays Alma, an elegantly dour, quietly heartsore Berlin academic who agrees to participate in a three-week beta test of a prototype android “partner.” Said android, Tom, is portrayed by the ubiquitous Dan Stevens (“Downton Abbey,” “Beauty and the Beast”), speaking German with a spiffy British accent that’s explained by Alma’s preference for “men who are slightly foreign – not local but not too exotic.”

Directed smartly and tartly by Maria Schrader (Netflix’s “Unorthodox”), the movie asks what it would be like to have a lover programmed to meet your every emotional need – whose entire purpose is to make you happy. Would it make you happy? No, it would creep you out. (Besides, we have dogs for that.) Alma initially stashes Tom in the utility room, like the appliance he is, but because his AI is adaptive and very fast, he accepts that she doesn’t want her bookshelves arranged alphabetically and that she’s not one of the 93% of German women who enjoy candlelit baths with rose petals. But Alma continues to resist, and Eggart gives her character a ruefully cynical wariness that’s often very funny. “Can’t you do something weird, something dumb?” she asks Tom in a fit of exasperation, and we feel her pain. Why won’t a computer comprehend that human beings don’t want perfection? That something in us craves the mess?

There’s a thaw, of course, and there’s something like romance, which “I’m Your Man” regards at arm’s length along with its heroine while deciding whether or not to cave in. Other movies have been here before, from the farcical (1987’s “Making Mr. Right,” a movie that unfairly torpedoed director Susan Seidelman’s career) to the inquisitive (2013’s “Her”) to the terrifying (“Ex Machina,” 2014). “I’m Your Man” has a comparatively light touch – maybe too light for viewers used to Hollywood-style pacing and plotting – but it’s as alert as its heroine to the tragicomic ironies of love in the digital age and it perches with Alma on a fulcrum between sadness and desire.

Honestly, if Jane Austen were alive and writing on a MacBook, she might come up with something like this. “I’m your Man” ends on an ambiguous note that’s a little frustrating but also hauntingly appropriate. Tom may be a miracle of modern technology, but his operating system has nothing on the mysteries of ours.

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