December 11, 2021 – The premise of this German language movie is similar to other movies about relations between robots and humans, but it delves deeper than most into the emotional issues involved in human-robot romantic relationships.
Alma (played by Maren Eggert) is a historian who accepts a robot trial deal, in return for research funding. She agrees to live with a robot for three weeks, and then write an evalutation. The incredibly lifelike robot, Tom (Dan Stevens of “The Man Who Invented Christmas”) has been programmed specifically to be her companion.
When Tom moves in to her apartment, Alma makes it clear to him that she wants to be left alone so she can collect her money with as little bother as possible from his presence. Tom, however, is persistent, continually trying to help her with household chores and her work. He tries to be friendly and start conversations.
Alma continually rebuffs these efforts, but he eventually wears down the barriers she has put up around herself. He learns about Alma's past, a baby lost to miscarriage, a failed relationship, and he adjusts his algorithms accordingly. Tom has a disarmingly frank approach to these things. He understands her in some ways, but is emotionally unaffected by her problems.
Alma gradually sees Tom as something more of a companion, and this troubles her. She insists on calling him a machine, and not a person. This is an error on her part. Tom is nothing less than a sentient being, and should be accorded the same rights and respect. The fact that Tom is manufactured, rather than born is irrelevant, but not to Alma. If she learns to love Tom, does that mean she has given up on human men? What would that mean for her future? What would it mean for the future of humanity?
These are the sorts of conflicting emotions that Alma is dealing with in this movie. It is very hard for her to deal with her feelings about Tom. Tom, on the other hand, is untroubled by her feelings. His job is to understand Alma's feelings and to adjust his behavior accordingly in order to be her trusted companion. He does just that. Alma goes through a lot of emotions, and Maren Eggert gives a fine performance in showing this.
If you like films that have ambiguous endings, you'll like this one. I'm not a fan of this kind of storytelling myself, but this ending felt O.K. to me. I prefer more of a resolution to end the story, but I guess this ending is close enough.
There are those who believe it is impossible for any artificial intelligence device to become sentient, and they will probably always think so, no matter what. I am not one of those people. I worry more about artificial sentient beings not being accorded the rights they are due. This subject comes up in the movie when Alma objects to the way that Tom is treated. She clearly believes that Tom should be treated with respect.
The question that is not addressed in the movie is Tom's lack of freedom to choose. He is programmed to be Alma's companion, in effect, her mate, her husband. Why doesn't he get the right to choose who he wants as his companion? Is he a slave to Alma? Does his lack of choice make him no more than one of her appliances? I guess we will have to wait for the sequel to this movie to answer that one. This film rates a B+.
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