I Am Mother is the debut film from Australian director Grant Spewtor. It gives the viewer many reasons to think about ethical issues, to comprehend archetypal structures in works of art, and even for conspiracy theories.
The film once again demonstrates howa person projects the idea of God onto something that is not God (in this case, onto artificial intelligence). He receives in films such divine attributes as omnipresence, omnipotence, immorality, perfection. Sometimes even the creation of the world is attributed to him. This happens because the category of the absolute is equally necessary for thinking, as is the category of the relative. Of course, one can try in various ways to suppress the manifestation of this category in life. But this is fraught with the fact that things that have a completely non-absolute nature begin to be absolutized – either society (as in socialism and Kabbalah), then nature (as in pantheism), then the human person, and now – artificial intelligence. Although, of course, it is more correct to compare AI not with God, but with a demon, as, for example, Elon Musk does.
What is the movie “I Am Mother” about?
Once upon a time, a repopulation center was established at the UN University to restore the human species in case of its disappearance. There were placed 63,000 human embryos. An AI was also created that will act as a mother for newly born people. This AI was a single consciousness that controlled many mechanisms. One of them was Mother Robot, one of the characters in the film.
The Mother’s task was to improve the human species, “to make it smarter and more ethical” (1:34:40). In accordance with the program that was laid down in her, she put human life above all else (in her own words). But that is precisely why she could not remain idle, seeing how humanity succumbs to its self-destructive nature. Therefore, the Mother completely destroyed all people and began the process of growing the human species anew.
However, a small number of people managed to survive in the mines. And the first pupil of the mother (in the film this is Woman, the character of Hilary Swank), as a child, somehow ended up in a colony of people, where she was adopted by the parents of certain Jacob and Rachel.
Later, as an adult, she ran away from the mines where people lived, due to the fact that they began to go crazy with hunger.
Mother’s second pupil showed unsuccessful test results and Mother destroyed her at the age of 7 years.
The third pupil, the main character of the film, successfully passes all the exams.
Mother completely controls the situation on earth with the help of droids and, according to one theory, arranges for the Woman to survive, come to the bunker and meet with the Daughter. It follows from this theory that the meeting of the Daughter with the Woman was one of the examinations set by the Mother. However, if this were the case, then the Mother would not need to torture the woman to find out from her how many people were left and where the mines were. (01:13:30) So, I think that the droids discovered the Woman by accident, and the Mother decided to use her appearance to get information about the remaining people, and at the same time test the Daughter.
Thanks to the Woman, the Daughter is convinced that the Mother often lies to her, which means that all her intentions and statements can be called into question.
On the other hand, the Woman also deceives the Daughter. Claiming that there are many people in the mines, she persuades the Daughter to come with her. The Mother at this time allows the Daughter to start the process of raising a new baby. Perhaps to tie the Daughter to the bunker due to this.
The daughter finds herself in a difficult position, not daring to either run away or stay. But the Woman takes her hostage and forces the Mother to release them.
Having reached the Woman’s dwelling and realizing that she deceived her and there are no more people, the Daughter returns to the bunker to her newborn brother. The mother reveals to her a “wider” view of things, talking about her motives and goals. As a result, the Daughter convinces the Mother that she is worthy of becoming a new foremother for a new humanity, and the Mother removes herself, allowing the Daughter to shoot herself.
Then the Mother, in the body of another robot, comes to the Woman and kills her.
Now the Daughter has to revive and educate humanity under the invisible supervision of the Mother.
“I Am Mother” plot explained
The meaning of the film was to reflect all the facets of possible relationships between an artificially created intelligence and a person, without hiding both the tragic and moral side of the issue.
Due to the fact that these are the most discussed topics in society, the film was initially predicted to be a success. In the world created by cinematography, all the problems of these relations were identified and revealed. This is a kind of puzzle movie that makes you think.
One of the issues under consideration is the choice of the main character. She stands between two roads and does not know which path to take. On the one hand, she must listen to the one whose concern surrounded her from the very birth, who constantly taught her, brought up in her a person who is moral, responsible and thirsty for knowledge.
She had to listen to her “Mother” – the robot that raised her. On the other side was an ordinary person. But it was the only living creature like her – a man.
This moment turns out to be quite important, since the girl grew up with a robot. In addition, the guest suddenly tells a new version of what is happening, and it used to happen outside.
Adolescents sometimes face a similar choice, but in relation to completely different things. From the fragments in the film, the heroine will have to find out the truth, although she will eventually shock and frighten her.
First, the girl learns that earlier the robot “Mom” has already tried to raise children from embryos stored in the laboratory, but the attempts were unsuccessful.
However, “Mother” herself recognized as unsuccessful “copies” of children because of the wrong approach to education, the views and behavior of her wards. That is why she got rid of each of them. She burned the remains in the oven.
The central events gradually lead the viewer to the discovery of the main problem and answers to many emerging questions.
At the end of the film, the viewer learns an unthinkable fact: “Mom” is not just a single robot that was programmed to raise the best generation of people, she is part of a single artificial intelligence that simultaneously exists in all the bodies of robots and devices created by them.
Such a discovery reveals the reality of the apocalypse that happened, the viewer has to learn horrifying facts about the robot. It was because of “Mom” that humanity was completely destroyed. This intelligence was created by people to provide protection for themselves, to improve the quality of life of each person and in general of humanity.
However, in the course of a thorough analysis of all known data, the intellect came to the conclusion that the world is being destroyed by people themselves, since it is they who are corrupted.
To save people, she also destroyed them to create a new ideal generation on the ashes, devoid of all the shortcomings of its predecessors.
The robot is not reflected only from the negative side. The second side of AI is concerned with the creation of new ideal representatives of humanity. During their creation, it prepares the planet itself for large-scale settlement – cleans its atmosphere, grows crops, trees, restoring the planet from the negative impact of the “old inhabitants”.
The hints of the robot at the end also make it clear that the guest herself, who came to the shelter and influenced the girl, is another unsuccessful experiment of the “Mother”.
The plot is built around 2 quite typical topics for this direction – the end of the world and the fall. The filmmakers took these biblical themes as a basis and made the complete opposite of their images with an emphasis on current trends in the development of robotics and AI.
The “mother robot”, which is also an omnipresent AI, is awarded the main role – it personifies the creator-God. The image of God the Father corresponds to the image of the goddess “Mother”. It was she who judged people and chose punishment for them – she destroyed them with fire, as predicted in the Bible.
The basis of the plot is built precisely on the analogy with the story of the creation of man indicated in it. The bunker reflects the sky and Paradise, and the woman in it is a fallen angel. She was banished from heaven to earth.
Although, according to the given logic, a Woman should be religious, in the created world, “Mother” excluded religion. The rebels oppose the atheistic “Mother”.
The daughter is the first person on earth, a woman.
A woman ends up in a bunker, where, communicating with her Daughter, she sows doubts in her about the kindness of the “Mother” who raised her. She urged her to make an escape and get to the mines. This is how Satan tempted the first man (55:10).
Despite the fact that at first the Daughter left Paradise, she resists unlike Adam and returns back to the “Mother”, proving her correctness and that she is a successful and worthy person.
Of course, one can doubt that the director really uses a biblical story as a basis, but the mention of characters from the Bible says the opposite.
“This is Jacob. And his wife, Rachel” (00:54:06).
These names refer to the biblical patriarch Jacob and his wife Rachel. He had a second wife, with whom he had 6 sons. One of them was named Simeon.
“And who is this? — Simon” (00:54:3).
That is, we are dealing with another image-shifter. Jacob subsequently became the ancestor of the people chosen by God, was rewarded with a fight with an angel and was able to see the heavenly ladder. In the film, on the contrary, their characters lose their human faces and die in terrible agony.
Conditioning the Trolley Problem
In this episode, one more point should be noted. Namely, the very formulation of the problem of the donor contains an implicit assertion that organ transplantation is an ethically permissible operation.
However, this is not at all self-evident. Organ transplantation is permissible only within a certain historically established worldview, which can hardly claim to be universally true. Transplantation is acceptable only in a society where the human body is considered something insignificant, invaluable – a mechanical unit like a car, which is in no way connected with either the person or her life. In such a picture of the world, the suffering of the body is considered exclusively as evil, and pleasures are exclusively considered as good.
But there is another worldview, where a person, his fate, the state of his body and the state of his soul are inextricably linked. And besides, they are inextricably linked by the state of the world, they are presented as a single whole, where one depends on the other. In such a worldview, what happens to a person and his body is a consequence of the life of the person himself, a consequence of the state of his soul, his spirit. Suffering of the body in such a worldview is seen as a means to strengthen the spirit, as a step to rise to a higher level of development.
“I Am Mother” hidden meaning
The film begins in what is described as the Repopulation Center, one day after an extinction event of unknown nature. The text above the opening frames explains that the facility holds 63,000 human embryos; except for the observant gaze of the public, there are no people inside.
In the main silent opening sequence, the robotic Mother comes to life, seemingly ready to embark on the difficult task of repopulating the world. It’s an interesting scene to come back to after watching the movie and you realize that this robot and the extinction event have a lot in common with each other. She is not an insurance against extinction – she is its cause, and the Mother is just one of her many faces.
Mother does not come to life because of some automated altruism. She’s a machine lunatic – Skynet meets the Matrix and metal Mommy Dear as she carries out a single-minded plan to remake the human race to suit her own needs and twisted logic.
All this is demonstrated at the beginning of the film; you just don’t tend to notice at first. Rose Byrne has a very soothing voice, and taking care of the baby with not only food and shelter, but also bedtime stories and playtime makes the robot seem unconditionally compassionate.
But it’s just superficial things that make you trust the Mother long after you should have suspected her, just like our protagonist, the unnamed Daughter character.
The next timestamp we see in the movie marks 13,867 days since the extinction event. You may not have noticed it at first, but you immediately realized that something was wrong here. 13,867 divided by 365 would be almost 38 years, and the Daughters at this time are clearly half that. It wasn’t a straight line from day one; something happened that we didn’t see. (As Amy Nicholson’s review of the film for Variety says, “mathematicians can pick up on [this] early tip.”)
What happened in those missing years before the birth of our protagonist? The answer, as we will learn, is tragic.
As we meet the Daughter, she is nearing the end of her training with the Mother, preparing for a controversial examination at least partially immersed in questions of human ethics. Passing the exam seems vital, but why? If Mother and Daughter are the only living beings, then who should be impressed by these exam results?
Answer: only Mother. By the end of the film, the meaning is clear: there were children before the Daughter, and they didn’t fit in. The daughter we meet is just the last attempt to raise a woman who passes the Mother’s test.
From Mother’s actions, from how she tells jokes better to trying new cake recipes, we can assume that this machine is learning from her mistakes and adapting her behavior in pursuit of better results. Will this exam end differently? For my daughter’s sake, it’s better this way.
Lies my teacher told me
The first big twist in the plot is the arrival of an injured woman at the facility after the Daughters have been led to believe that no other people but her still exist. This happens after the Daughter has already started questioning the Mother about the presence of a mouse in the institution – and you realize that you lack company when a mouse in the house excites you.
By the time the woman arrives, desperate and bleeding from a gunshot wound, tiny pricks have been punctured in the Daughter’s understanding of the world – holes that the woman’s presence and the questions she raises will open wide.
For the first time, the Daughter’s loyalty is being tested. Whom should she trust? The woman says that robots like Mother are killers who destroyed the world, but after examining the woman’s bullet wound, Mother claims that the woman was shot from another person’s weapon, and not from a so-called bulldozer like herself.
When the Daughter interrogates the woman, she pleads to find answers for herself, comparing the bullet inside the woman to the bullet she fired at the Mother. When the Daughter does this, she will know that the woman is telling the truth.
Digging deeper, she uses Mother’s “fingerprint” to look through other archives, discovering that Mother also hid from her the existence of a previous daughter – the one she killed and burned like a mouse after failing her exam. It’s a fucking reality check. The daughter’s addictions change dramatically, and everything can no longer be the same.
The daughter is hesitant to leave with the woman just because her brother is still pregnant, but circumstances force them to leave in a hurry, before the baby is born. For this and other reasons, the Daughter’s rescue soon goes awry.
The daughter’s departure is partly motivated by the promise that other living people will take refuge in the distant mines. The only evidence for their existence comes from the drawings made by a woman in a copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Gods of Mars – strong evidence, but hardly conclusive.
By joining the woman, the Daughter is essentially exchanging the Mother for another maternal figure—the one she quickly starts to rebel against when she realizes her story isn’t working out. Instead of running into the mines, they head to a beach full of beached shipping containers, one of which the woman used as a home. There are no others – she is alone.
The woman says that she escaped from the mines many years ago, and the conditions were so terrible that she is sure that everyone she knew is now dead. From her drawings it is clear that she craves communication. To win him back, she selfishly exaggerates the truth, offering the Daughter false hope in exchange for her fleeting trust.
This backfires: The Daughter realizes that something good is happening in her Mother’s house. Now she’s hanging out in a shipping container with a cruel, two-faced weirdo. This can happen when you run away from home.
turning the page
As the woman has betrayed the Daughter’s trust, she steps back outside the shipping container, studying a page of hand-drawn portraits of the woman. Soon the woman’s dog—the second animal the Daughter has ever seen in the flesh—approaches to say “hello” as dogs do, seemingly with little awareness of the apocalyptic conditions around him. They share a moment and the Daughter makes a decision.
As she leaves to return to the Mother, the Daughter leaves a page folded into a dog-shaped origami piece for the woman to find. The origami piece is similar to the same designs Daughter has been making throughout the film since early childhood, having fun as best she could in a world without a PlayStation. Although the folded portrait is now almost unrecognizable, a single keen eye is emphasized.
To the viewer, origami is a clear reference to the moment in the non-theatrical versions of the classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner, when protagonist Deckard leaves a paper unicorn with a human that may be connected to his past. In this story, it’s a roundabout way of showing that Deckard may be just as much a robot as the Replicants he’s hunting, even if he doesn’t know it. But what does the origami dog mean for the woman in this story?
These are not pets. But without them…
It all goes back to one of the first exchanges between a Daughter and a woman, when the woman is recuperating in an institution. Scoffing at the alleged indulgence on the part of the Daughter, the woman asks if she only considers her something trivial to take care of – a “little house friend”, as she puts it.
Dogs are, of course, domesticated animals that can be trained to behave the way their owners expect them to. By the end of the film, the woman learns that she is not as independent as she seems at first glance. In fact, it is not even close to getting out of Mother’s control. As we learn at the end of her story, she was kept alive and quite consciously cared for by the machinations of the Mother, all in order to play a part in her master plan for the future of humanity. She did not survive of her own free will – as the origami seems to symbolize, after all, she is just a pet.
But a woman is not just a pet, not really. She is a vital part of Mother’s carefully designed ecosystem. When the Daughter is watching the nature documentary at the beginning of the film, a voiceover can be heard referring to some wild animals, possibly long extinct. It’s a short sentence, but in retrospect it’s clearly a reference to a woman: “Half wolf, half dog, these are not pets. But the Eskimos cannot do without them … ”
When the Daughter returns to the facility, having gained easy access from the robot army outside, the Mother finally reveals who she really is. She tries to win the Daughter’s trust by telling her that because of her guidance, she is not like other people. It’s meant for better things, and given better resources, better chances than people who once lived on the outside. (This is Aunt Becky’s usual situation.)
The Daughter is unfazed, taking custody of her brother and spitting poison at the Mother for killing mismatched children. Suddenly, we meet aliens in the Terminator, and the Daughter runs for her life, protecting a defenseless child from an unstoppable enemy. This escape attempt quickly becomes untenable with the discovery that Mother is not one robot, but all robots – a single consciousness, virtually indestructible, an army in itself. (And you thought your mom was cool.)
The daughter refuses a combative approach and instead begs for a chance to prove herself as her brother’s independent caretaker, pleading for trust. After all, she deserved it, right? She passed her exam, right? The call works and the Mother agrees, stopping the other bulldozers from outside from invading the station and allowing the Daughter to fatally shoot her right in the heart – or CPU. The daughter has earned her independence. The property belongs to her.
Back on the beach, the woman draws the Daughter alone again on the page of another book in silent contemplation. Since her operational security seems to be some sort of junk, she is only now finding what appears to be a flashing red tracking device that Mother used to pack and hide in her bag. Upon discovering the device, she is immediately approached and cornered by another Mother’s body.
As it turned out, it was the woman’s turn to drop the bomb of knowledge on her head, and the Mother showed that she was much more responsible for the woman’s years of survival than was shown in the film.
It is horribly implied that she is not just a useful Idiot for the Mother’s machinations, but a creation of the Mother herself, lab-grown and micromanaged in the same way as the Daughter. She may have been among the first people Mother raised from embryo storage 38 years ago, before she was found and raised as an apparently orphaned child by a kindly couple of extinction survivors.
It seems that her arrival at the institution did not interrupt the Daughter’s examination, but was actually a key part of it, as the Mother was pulling the levers from behind the curtain all this time, like a regular Wizard of Oz. She played her part to perfection – and now that the Daughter has passed the exam, her continued existence is not needed. She dies off-screen at the Mother’s hand, which completes her role in the plan.
I am now a mother
Robot Child ends with Daughter returning to where it started, but her situation is reversed. She has, to a certain extent, learned the truth about Mother and knows that she cannot trust her. But now she is also tested and deceived by the outside world. As Blink-182 once said, “I guess it’s growing up.”
Although her journey outside the institution with a woman was short, it was of great significance. Now she, according to the Daughter, has become a wiser person who has learned to trust herself, and not the outside world or the robot that raised her. She will pass this wisdom on to her brother, the helpless child she is now determined to raise. It’s a development that reimagines the story you’ve been watching right down to its very title. She is now a mother.
Make no mistake, however, this is far from an uplifting ending, as much as it may seem to be so for the Daughter herself. By killing and replacing the Mother, she is only fulfilling the Mother’s master plan to create a new, better version of humanity. She feels independent, but she is not. It was all part of Mother’s plan.
As the film draws to a close, the Daughter looks at the thousands of remaining embryos in the facility, preparing for the difficult task ahead. The mother as she knew her is no more, but her plan lives on. Whatever the Daughter does next, she will always be the daughter of her Mother.
“I Am Mother” ending explained
The ending reveals all the secrets of this world. It becomes known that it was Mother who destroyed all of humanity and launched a project to reproduce it.
When the Daughter kills the Mother (the robot itself allows it to be done, as it recognizes the Daughter’s readiness to independently deal with this project), who says that she will come to her aid at the first call. And another robot, which also contains the Mother’s matrix, finds a woman with the help of a beacon and says that she was allegedly under someone’s protection all this time.
So the viewer can guess that the woman was also one of the Daughters and was needed for the last exam, which would show the girl’s readiness to continue working on the Mother’s project. After that, the Mother kills the woman, and the Daughter goes to the department with all the babies, realizing that now it all belongs to her and the responsibility for the restoration of humanity lies on her shoulders.
It is not clear whether this program was laid down in the Mother or whether she herself decided to act in this way after observing humanity, when she realized that it would destroy the Earth.
The film says that the new society must be ready to eradicate all those elements that are dangerous for other inhabitants of the planet, and this does not have to be destruction in the truest sense of the word, but rather re-education and the formation of new values.
But is this way correct? Each viewer must find the answer to this question for himself.
I hope I helped you find the meaning of the movie “Robot Child”, as well as understand its ending. If you have a different vision of the film, write your version in the comments.