After Dan Stevens left the pleasant confines of Downton Abbey to pursue movie roles, there have been some who puzzled if he made the flawed alternative. Downton Abbey, in any case, had turn into a cultural phenomenon, and Stevens’ function as one of many central characters meant he had a job for so long as he favored. Why threat a chicken within the hand for 2 within the bush? And certainly, for a time, it appeared as if Stevens couldn’t discover a function as potent as Matthew Crawley. Whereas he was strong in thrillers like The Visitor and Apostle, he was misplaced beneath CGI and dangerous writing within the Magnificence and the Beast live-action reboot, and he took gigs in inessential films like Blithe Spirit and a Evening on the Museum sequel. However proper when it appeared like he wouldn’t attain his A-list potential, alongside got here I’m Your Man, giving Stevens the function he was born to play: a good-looking robotic.
Which will sound like a snide joke at Stevens’ expense, nevertheless it’s nothing of the kind. I’m Your Man, a German-language sci-fi romance directed by Maria Schrader, is a few literal robotic, programmed to be the proper romantic associate primarily based on information gathered from the mind scans of numerous ladies. A skeptical archeologist named Alma (Maren Eggert) is coaxed into testing her robotic, Tom (Stevens) for a three-week interval. Initially, Alma is exasperated by Tom’s romantic overtures, that are each annoyingly excellent (a candlelit tub) and annoyingly imperfect (unsolicited, extremely particular driving recommendation). Ultimately, nevertheless, her defenses are lowered, and he or she turns into smitten.
Tom is a task with a really excessive diploma of issue. He should act nearly fully human, with an emphasis on “nearly”: he should not seem too pure or too synthetic. His preliminary, imperfect makes an attempt at wooing Alma should come throughout as charming, to the viewers if to not Alma. There should not be even a touch of manipulation. When he ultimately succeeds in getting previous Alma’s spiky exterior, the viewers should be totally invested within the feelings of a being who’s incapable of true emotion. Stevens was requested to steadiness these issues, all whereas performing in his third language. Fortunately, he turned out to be an impressed alternative for Tom.
Credit score ought to go partially to the casting director, one Anja Dihrberg, for recognizing the qualities that made Stevens a really perfect Tom. Together with his robust jawline and piercing gaze, he’s nearly cartoonishly dashing, like the results of a kind of AI packages that turns Disney characters into actual individuals; it’s very simple to consider that somebody who appears to be like like Dan Stevens was created in a lab. The truth that Stevens just isn’t a local German speaker provides one other layer of believability to the robotic narrative. Individuals talking a second language, even fluent audio system, typically lapse right into a deliberate, measured cadence, not not like a robotic’s. (Contemplate how Kraftwerk had been extra convincing as robots when performing in English; of their native German, they sounded much less machine and extra mensch.)
The primary time Alma (and the viewers) meets Tom, he’s at his most robotic. In a simulated early date at a membership stuffed with holographic diners and dancers, Tom is generally convincing as a human, however he can’t fairly cover his true nature. His informal gestures, just like the “OK” image he makes along with his hand, really feel mechanical. He busts out dangerous, AI-generated poetry to reward Alma: “your eyes are like two mountain lakes I might sink into.” When Alma asks him to resolve a posh math drawback, he solutions instantly. There’s attraction even on this janky early stage — try Tom’s goofy little shoulder shimmy when he suggests doing the rumba. However when he begins glitching out and divulges that he’s a robotic, it comes as no shock.
Stevens performs all this with simply the proper tone of daffy charisma, but when he stayed in that mode all the film it might need turn into exhausting. It’s one factor to be convincing as a robotic, nevertheless it’s fairly one other factor to advance previous that early mishap and turn into somebody a hard-headed pragmatist like Alma might fall in love with. So whereas neither Alma nor the viewers forgets that Tom is a robotic, he adapts to turn into extra pure and agreeable, somebody Alma might fall in love with. When Alma rejects his candlelit tub concept, he doesn’t do it once more; when she’s bewildered at his sudden reorganization of her house, he units it again to regular inside quarter-hour. Ultimately, the eye-rolls turn into much less frequent, and Alma begins to turn into connected to Tom.
If not performed proper, Tom might have come throughout as creepy, some sort of loverboy T-1000 adapting and molding himself with a purpose to finest manipulate a girl who initially desires nothing to do with him. However Stevens lends him an endearing eagerness to please: not simply Alma, however anybody he meets, resembling when he calculates the precise dimensions of a framed picture to see if it would slot in somebody’s trunk. Even when he’s off-putting, it’s humorous reasonably than unnerving: the viewers laughs when he confides in a barista that he’s simply pretending to need issues, not simply because the barista is weirded out however as a result of Tom is so darn pleased with himself. Though Tom could not technically really feel something, there’s one thing ingratiating about his obvious want to study extra about human foibles. How can anybody deny the sort of man who research epic fail compilations with the depth of a nuclear physicist?
Ultimately, issues flip romantic, and even dramatic, and Stevens performs all of it with ability. He’s a peaceful, regular presence, his soothing, British-accented voice a balm to somebody as tightly-wound as Alma, and his mild nature sands down her tough edges. It actually does seem as if he’s excellent for her; Tom could or could not really feel something, nevertheless it’s simple to consider that he does. That’s why it stings when Alma is out of the blue struck with doubt and sends Tom away early, even when he takes it in stride. And that’s why it’s such a aid when Alma returns to her childhood trip spot (the place she met an enthralling younger boy named Thomas) and finds her lover ready patiently for her, having stood for 3 days till she arrived. All of it required a fragile steadiness, and Dan Stevens was the person for the job.
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