There’s never really a good time for a robot uprising to start. But when you’re at a party and you’ve literally just found out that you’re pregnant (with a guy you don’t really even like that much), the last thing you want to do is fight off an army of killer terminators.
Someone got lazy coming up with a title for this post-apocalyptic thriller – a film that’s half about a pregnancy, and half about trying to survive in a sci-fi wasteland full of deadly machines. Chloë Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) and Algee Smith (Euphoria) are reluctant new parents on the run in director Mattson Tomlin’s dour, lo-fi debut, spending more time trying to avoid comparisons with A Quiet Place, The Last Of Us and The Walking Dead than they are outrunning robots.
Starting strong, the apocalypse arrives with a screech of electronic noise. This is the near future, and androids are a regular part of everyday life (looking exactly like us, mostly working as butlers – happily serving shots to teens if they hear the right parental lock pin code). Georgia (Moretz) has just found out that she’s pregnant by Sam (Smith), and she’s crying in the bathroom of a house party when everyone’s phone blacks out and the staff start choking, stabbing and shooting everyone they see.
There’s a smart social allegory buried somewhere in Tomlin’s film – with waiters, delivery drivers and street sweepers revolting against America’s middle classes – but whatever potential it has gets lost in cliché and a whole lot of time spent watching Moretz sitting in a soggy tent in the woods.
We jump forward nine months, and the rest of Mother/Android takes place just as Georgia is about to give birth, now partnered up properly with Sam and desperately looking for a safe place to deliver a baby in the rural wilds of a world that’s still stalked by machines. The derivative aspects of the film don’t do it any favours, and where John Krasinski found originality and creativity, Tomlin only finds the recycled offcuts of a dozen other (better) films, stretching his low budget in all the wrong places until everything feels a bit cheap.
Thankfully, Moretz and Smith are both great – grounding a corny script with real sensitivity, and doing a brilliant job of bringing it all to life. Moretz drags herself through the wringer in a string of increasingly tough (and increasingly silly) emotional scenes – giving the film’s daft ending far more weight than it actually deserves.
COVID has meant there’s less appetite for dystopian sci-fi at the moment, but recent films like Love And Monsters, The Mitchells vs. The Machines and Tom Hanks’ Finch have all managed to find interesting ways of making us care again – flipping the tired old formula on its head with cartoons, comedies and fresh angles. Mother/Android doesn’t fail because it’s a bad apocalypse survival film, it fails because it’s the exact same apocalypse survival film we’ve been rewatching for years already. If Moretz was any less convincing we’d be rooting for the robots, just to mix things up a bit.
- Director: Mattson Tomlin
- Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Algee Smith, Raúl Castillo
- Release date: January 7 (Netflix)