Dan Stevens has often played clean-cut, chiseled romantic leads. From playing a Disney prince to his role in Downton Abbey to even his creepy turn in The Guest, he has a Ken doll kind of quality. In I'm Your Man, this quality of Stevens is pushed to the edge as he plays a synthetic human companion. The character is a Ken doll come to life and casting choice is inspired.
Stevens plays Tom, a robot creation meant to be the perfect partner, both emotionally and sexually. The performance hinges on us buying the illusion but given Stevens' onscreen history, it isn't that far of a stretch. That isn't to take away from a great performance here. Stevens embodies Tom fully, controlling his movements in ways that maximize the comedic tone of the film.
I'm Your Man is part sci-fi film and part rom-com. In the near future, Alma (Maren Eggert) is a research scientist who has three weeks with Tom to determine if Toms should be released into the world. Tom has been given lots of information on Alma in order to be a great partner for her. And yet none of it works initially. Alma is skeptical, which is why she was chosen for the study. She is a pragmatist who doesn't believe this could ever work. Tom, however, is persistent and keeps trying to find a way in.
I'm Your Man is destined for an American remake. Here's hoping they keep that skepticism intact because the film is better for it. That extends to a thoughtful and thought-provoking ending that may not make it into the remake aimed at American audiences who need a clearer happy ending. The film is very funny thanks to the chemistry between the leads and to Stevens's physical comedy chops. Like Alma, I was initially skeptical of the film but it won me over thanks to the ways in which it actually wrestles with its high-concept premise. This isn't a star vehicle but a funny and heartfelt look at loneliness and our need to connect.
The film is very clever, even coming up with a fun explanation as to why Stevens, speaking in fluent German, has an English accent. Director Maria Schrader deftly manages the film's tone, keeping it falling into rom-com trappings. The film is stronger and more distinct for the ways in which it doesn't go where you expect it to. There is always a question as to the genuineness of Alma and Tom's growing connection. Is Tom's algorithm just getting better at adjusting to Alma's cold resistance? It is rare for a fun and romantic film to wrestle with these ideas.
Before a dumbed-down version of this film comes to the U.S., seek out this German-language original. The film has real charm and brains to it. Stevens is pitch-perfect and a total surprise speaking German. Eggert is funny and relatable as Alma, a character given more agency and free will than many other rom-coms.