I have become a great fan of Chloë Grace Moretz. The actress’ work over the last decade has shown enormous growth and range, and what’s more, is her character choices are always surprising. Tom and Jerry may not have been the greatest film to grace the screen this past year, but her performance was charmingly comedic. Shadow in the Cloud‘s Maude Garrett was an impressive badass as the actress hitched a ride in a WWII fighter plane. And her portrayal of the paranoid and scared Patricia in Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of Dario Argento‘s Suspiria set an atmosphere of fear that provided gravity to the film. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, I could go on and on about Moretz’s talent, but my guess is you can think of at least one film she wowed you in. That was the reason Mother/Android caught my attention in the first place.
Mother/Android isn’t expressly horror, but the events that transpire are extraordinarily harrowing. Set in the not-too-distant future of an alternate timeline where robots have been intricately developed during the last sixty or so years, robots have become tools of human convenience and as customary in homes as microwaves. While attending a Christmas party, Georgia (Moretz) discovers she’s pregnant. Before she has the opportunity to decide her next steps, a robot uprising takes place, actively making the choice for her and putting her in the middle of a war between androids and humans.
Flashing forward nine months, Georgia and her baby’s father, Sam (Algee Smith), live in the woods and are forced to travel between human resistance camps as they make their way to Boston. The destination offers the couple the opportunity for Georgia to give birth in a safe zone hospital and maybe a chance to travel to Korea to be a family—easier said than done. The couple will have to travel through No Man’s Land to get to Boston, a literal nickname given to a large robot occupation that surrounds the city.
The film suffers some awkward transitions in the first half as we struggle through the film’s setup while attempting to comprehend the rules of this dystopian world. I had issues with the first area Georgia and Sam visited, whose defenses were a chain-link fence and whose guardians further removed weapons from their guests like the towns in a Fallout video game. Georgia dressed in a blue scarf over her head while pregnant giving the impression of the Virgin Mary. The movie doesn’t become less perplexing either. Questions about why Korea, or a considerably rich city like Boston, was at the forefront of the safe zones require some explanation and ask the audience for a more conscientious abandonment to the film’s story over a provided reason.
That being said, there is some merit in the themes the film’s story offers. To some extent, the movie parallels illegal immigration and the struggle to provide a better life for your children. Add some ideas surrounding human nature in comparison to that of cold-thinking manipulative machines, and Mother/Android feels built from good ideas. Unfortunately, the first half teeters between what it wants to be while the second half tries to elevate itself from overlooked low-budget sci-fi. While the first half is devoid of almost any post-prologue action—even a fistfight is shown off camera—the film still manages moments of intensity, dread, and emotion, though sometimes the dialogue comes off like a CW tween series of The Walking Dead.
In the second half, the story focuses more on stealth and action to possibly satisfy viewers who’ve made it this far. A chase on a motorbike through No Man’s Land begins the transition, and considering their journey through this area is supposed to be the main reason to watch Mother/Android, the journey feels like a side note. Sort of like remembering home and your destination but not recalling details about the drive that got you from either point. Maybe it’s because the time the film spends in the robot-held zone is less than thirty minutes. It could also be that Sam ends up abandoning Georgia to allow her to get away, Sam’s constant martyrdom becoming one of the film’s central plot points.
Georgia is taken in by a reclusive programmer, Arthur (Raúl Castillo), who helps Georgia rescue Sam, and on the other side of that mission is Boston. I will admit the rescue scene is the most pulse-pounding part of Mother/Android, and the scene feels like a concept writer-director Mattson Tomlin may have written his film around. Still, somehow, it feels like the film is two halves of two different movies stitched together. Your first half is a lowly drama, and the second half is The Terminator tale of how Sarah Conner fought to have her son John.
Viewers are also sure to be divided by Mother/Android‘s finale. The tone of the film is rather dark all the way through, and the ending isn’t all exactly roses either. It also meanders in its final moments, trying to create drama from the length of its last twist. Speaking of twists, it’s not hard to see the ones in Mother/Android coming either.
Going back to Moretz, I still think the actress is doing a great job carrying films. Algee Smith and Raúl Castillo are both fantastic as well, and that’s because acting isn’t Mother/Android’s problem. Directing isn’t either, and there’s plenty of wonderful imagery throughout the film. The movie is instead plagued by a story trying to cram in more content than it has room for. Perhaps a six-episode series would have given the material a better pace to flow less erratically.
I don’t think Mother/Android is an entirely bad film, but it certainly isn’t good either. Tomlin’s script is a mashup of ideas from a lot of robot-inspired material. The fact he’ll be writing the pilot for a new Terminator tv show and Mega Man movie makes me wonder if we’ll see repeated ideas from here as well.
Mother/Android is now available to stream on Hulu.