(director/writer: Grant Sputore; screenwriters: Michael Lloyd Green, story by Sputore & Green; cinematographer: Steven D. Annis; editor: Sean Lahiff; music: Dan Luscombe, Anthony Partos; cast: Luke Hawker (Mother), Rose Byrne (voice of mother), Hilary Swank (Woman), Clara Rugaard (Daughter), Jacob Nolan (Brother), Tahlia Sturzaker (Child), Hazel Sandery (Toddler), Summer Lenton (Toddler); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Kelvin Munro, Timothy White; Netflix; 2019-Australia)

“It gets over as a dystopian allegory.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Aussie filmmaker Grant Sputore, in his directorial debut (filmed in Australia), is mostly successful with his intriguing story except for it being too repetitive and too dense. He co-writes this clever, low-budget AI futuristic sci-fi pic with Michael Lloyd Green, that’s based on their story. It gets over as a dystopian allegory.

The familiar futuristic tale of man vs. machine in a post-apocalyptic world  is set in a high-tech underground lab, a comfortable bunker that is used as a facility to repopulate the world if humans become extinct. It  has robots become responsible for selecting the best human embryos, left frozen in test tubes, to survive in this challenging unsafe post-apocalyptic world.

Calling itself Mother is a one-eyed metallic android – embodied by Luke Hawker and voiced by Rose Byrne.

Because of an unnamed event that rid the world of most of humanity, the remaining humans are completely dependent on the robots for their survival. This allows for the manipulative robot called Mother to look after 63,000 human embryos in a protected underground lab and to select the best ones to be hatched for regeneration.

The first-born human from the lab, known as Daughter, is played by Clara Rugaard. She is raised with special training to develop moral character, maintain her health and gain smarts by the caring Mother, who acts as teacher, parent and medical provider. Daughter has a pleasant childhood even if lonely and not allowed outside the lab to roam in the wasteland.

One day, a wounded woman (Hilary Swank) appears outside the underground lab and pleads to have the Daughter, now a teenager, let her in despite forbidden to do so by Mother. It turns out Woman’s been shot.

Inside the bunker Mother and Woman have different opinions on life, as the Woman decries that androids aren’t to be trusted and that the outside mess in the world comes about when they tried to overthrow humanity.

Mother’s spiel is to convey that a world without humans would not be the kind of world that is desirable, therefore Mother says she willingly helps the humans survive.

Both try and convince Daughter that they are right.
The all-female cast give the film a feminine pulse. It’s pointed out that robots and humans must learn how to live together, which seems to be the film’s message.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival