Near-future tale of a woman who accepts a male ‘companion’ robot played by Stevens is laboriously told and not really funny enough
Directed by Maria Schrader, this was a crowd-pleasing favourite at the Berlin film festival earlier this year and its star, Maren Eggert, won the festival’s new gender-neutral best leading performance prize. But I was disappointed with a film whose crises and dilemmas seem laborious and essentially predictable; it does not fully work as sci-fi or satire or comedy.
We are in a world of the near-future (and the city of Berlin itself is certainly very plausible as its location). Eggert plays Alma, an archaeologist with an unhappy and frustrating personal life. She is persuaded by her boss to be a guinea-pig for a new hi-tech scheme: she will road-test a male “companion” robot, programmed to be infinitely considerate and obliging, which will attend to all her emotional and indeed physical needs. So Alma sceptically takes home this dashing humanoid geisha: Tom, played with elegant, fluent German by Dan Stevens. And after a rocky, angry start, after duly dismissing this soulless adventure in existential convenience, Alma inevitably comes to think that there could be something to it. In rejecting Tom, is she simply preferring the headache to the aspirin?