Sci-Fi Week: The iMom
The iMom will change your life! Well, at least that’s what the ads claim. In this horror science fiction, when a mother leaves her kids under the supervision of the family’s iMom, a dark biblical link is realised.
Using science fiction to delve into the recesses of human nature is a practice used often but so rarely to such good effect within a 13-minute movie. Writer and director Ariel Martin wastes no time putting us in the headspace we need to be in, opening with a quote from Albert Einstein that anyone living in the 21st century will recognise as tragic fact. “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity”. Thus begins an unsettling and at times darkly comedic tale about Sam (Karl Beattie), a young boy who is a bullying victim and is reticent about accepting the family’s new robotic mother substitute.
The machine gone bad trope is a well-worn one and while it is hinted at from the beginning, the focus here is not if or when the machine turns evil, it is the loss of humanity that resulted in the machine being there in the first place. Keeping the focus on Sam and the iMom, the feel of this film is disturbingly intimate and at times claustrophobic. Beginning with Sam’s mother leaving him at home with the iMom to meet up with some friends, we get an idea of how (and why) people could end up effectively replacing themselves as primary carer for their kids.
The thing to note is that there is no lack of concern from Sam’s mother and Martin does well to craft her character in a non-judgmental way. She is a flawed human being who has career and social concerns that she has trouble balancing, hence the iMom. And like many of us, if there is someone/something looking after a particular aspect of her life, she often unconsciously pays it less attention.
Parents who are distracted from the troubles going on in their children’s lives are not a new or rare phenomenon and we are reminded that in such instances, while parents can be distracted, it does not mean that they do not care. It is this common and understandable scenario that makes the premise of this film so scarily plausible.
While the observations, sympathies and concerns of parenthood underpin the story, this is still a well-told slow burning thriller that does not hesitate to evoke the Bible to remind us that wolves lurk amongst us. Meanwhile the film reminds us that these wolves are often of our own making. The fruits, through which, we will be known. With a story like this, atmosphere is everything and as such recognition has to be given both to Karl Beattie as Sam and Matilda Brown as the iMom. While Beattie embodies, what could be a typical angsty teen, he also brings a much-needed vulnerability to the role. We see a boy in need of a mother and he beautifully carries off some the film’s more personal moments in its latter stages.
Brown, has a difficult line to walk, as many actors do when portraying humanoid machines. However, the real challenge in terms of her performance comes after an electrical interference occurs and presumably interferes with the iMom’s programming. From this point on, Brown has to give the air of something that has just discovered curiosity. The iMom does not just want to know facts in accordance with its programming but it wants to know itself and the world around it. We do not know if the iMom has become sentient or is just malfunctioning, but Brown does a fantastic job of portraying a being that is slowly working out just how damaged humanity is by recognising the darker parts of itself.
With the enclosed environment of the film being of such importance, the cinematography plays a large part here and Richard Michalak does some incredible work here. After a power outage plunges the house into darkness, the only illumination comes from a wall display, which throws out a colour sensation that subconsciously puts the viewer into a mindset to contemplate the observations of humanity that the dialogue begins to explore. All the while, the tone is being perfectly set for the build up to a terrifying revelation, showing us (with great beauty) enough to see the connection begin to form between Sam and the iMom and hiding everything else until the film wants to reveal it.
The foreboding darkness of a danger in our midst is to be expected with this kind of story, but the real line that Ariel Martin walks with this movie is the comedy of the shamelessly vacuous people who outsource the role of parenting and the disturbing familiarity of people who want to take on the role of being a parent and later have trouble accepting the restricted freedoms that come along with it. So rather than becoming yet another sci-fi movie about fearing technology, it asks the very serious question, if you could get a machine to raise your kids, would you?
Studio: Ariel Martin | Year: 2013 | Genre: Sci-Fi | Duration: 14 mins | Suitability: Mature - Some scenes may be unsettling for younger viewers
Karl Beattie, Matilda Brown, Marta Dusseldorp
Director: Ariel Martin | Producer: Ariel Martin, Anna Fawcett | Writer: Ariel Martin