Author Archives: lydias

Safe and Sound: A Review of I Am Mother

Film poster for I Am Mother. Image on poster shows a robot holding a baby. In the background are the faces of the main characters. Content warning: death of a pet and blood. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

I Am Mother is a 2019 Australian science fiction thriller about a human girl who was raised by a robot that was designed to repopulate the Earth after some sort of extinction event.

The characters in this tale don’t have conventional names like you or I do. Instead, the human child is called Daughter and the robot who raised her is called Mother.

While Daughter is well cared for, her isolation not only from other people but from anything outside of their isolation bunker is absolute.

Mother insists it isn’t safe out there, and her word is law.

Characters

Clara Rugaard as Daughter
Clara Rugaard as Daughter

Daughter was an intelligent and thoughtful young woman. She’d previously been obedient of Mother’s wishes, but her curiosity about what life was like outside of the UNU-HWK_Repopulation Facility and dissatisfation with what her mother told her about it was growing stronger by the way.

 

Luke Hawker as Mother (performance)
Luke Hawker as Mother (performance) Rose Byrne as Mother (voice)

 

Mother the robot who had raised Daughter and who was making preparations for the next human infant she’d take responsibility for. She was strict and protective of her daughter. While Daughter’s health and happiness was important to her, she refused to compromise on any of the rules she’d come up with on how best to raise a human child in a post-apocalyptic environment.

Hilary Swank as Woman
Hilary Swank as Woman

 

Woman was the injured, dying stranger who stumbled upon the bunker one day. She’d lived a life filled with fear and danger. Every move she made was calculated to give her the highest probability of surviving just one more day.

My Review

Just like with Annihilation, my biggest reason for wanting to watch this film had to do with the fact that all of the main characters in it were women. All of the science fiction films I grew up watching were male dominated. Some of them were comprised of nothing but dudes. Others might have as many as one female hero for every three, four, or five male hero.

I’m elated to see this changing, and I’ll continue to highlight science fiction films that change those old norms as I find them.

You may have noticed that the cast for “I Am Mother” is pretty small. No, I didn’t leave anyone out to avoid sharing spoilers. This tale was so tightly woven around the fates of the three main characters that they seemed like the perfect number of players for the plot.

Mother, Daughter, and Woman were three complex individuals whose goals sometimes clashed sharply. Finding a solution to their conflicts that satisfied all three of them would be a herculean task at best because of how differently they all measured success and how much friction existed between what everyone wanted.

No, I can’t go into more details about that without giving you spoilers. It is definitely something that’s worth exploring for yourself, though. I’m the sort of viewer who picks one character – not necessarily the hero, mind you – and spends the entire film hoping she will succeed. In this case, my loyalties shifted from one scene to the next.

Daughter and Mother having a discussion.
Daughter and Mother having a discussion.

One of my strengths as a viewer is that I always want more information about the science in science fiction, so there were a few things about Daughter’s upbringing that I wish had been addressed with a bit more detail. For example, how was Mother planning to keep her immune system strong when the girl had never been exposed to any outside germs? Were there vaccines for every possible virus and bacteria in this world? How did Daughter get sufficient vitamin D when she’d never been outside and ate what appeared to be a somewhat monotonous diet?

These weren’t exactly criticisms, though, because I came to easily accept other parts of her existence that were spaced even further away from our current scientific understanding of human biology and growth patterns. I strongly suspect that wondering about how this stuff actually worked, alongside many other questions this story brings up, is something the filmmakers did on purpose for their audience.

Some questions become more interesting if you’re not spoon-fed answers to them, especially since the mystery elements of the plot were so simple to put together in my experience. There were plenty of clues about what was really happening with Mother and Daughter for anyone who pays attention to what they’re watching and thinks critically about it.

I figured out the mystery pretty early on. What was compelling about it was seeing how Daughter reacted to the clues she also had access to and what happened when she realized that the information she already had wasn’t fitting together the way it should.

Something was missing.

I’ll leave it up to my readers to discover what that something was. What I will say is that this is a film I’d happily watch again. It was simply that well written and thought provoking.

I Am Mother is available on Netflix.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Topics I Could Give an Impromptu Speech On

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

I could give impromptu speeches on any of these topics.

anadian flag on a flagpole blowing in the breeze. The sky behind the flag is bright blue and cloudless. Navigating the Canadian Immigration System. I’d discuss everything from filling out the many pages of paperwork for it, to adjusting to Canadian culture, to how long it took me to go through each stage of the process.

Thriving with Food and Environmental Allergies. I’d probably focus on travelling with allergies in particular as that’s something that took me the longest amount of time to adjust to.

Writing a Fair, Honest Review. There is skill involved in reviewing a book, film, or other piece of media in such a way that readers have a clear understanding what did and didn’t work for you. Their opinions of it may or may not be the same, but they should at least know exactly why you gave it the rating that you did.

Developing a Social Media Calendar. Keeping an audience’s attention is also a skill. I love the challenge of figuring out what they respond best to.

Top Ten Tuesday: Should I Buy These Books?

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Technically, this week’s prompt was “Books I Bought/Borrowed Because…”. I tweaked it to better fit my reading patterns since almost all of my reading material is borrowed from the library.

I’ll share the titles and blurbs from some books I’m thinking about buying this spring while remaining in social isolation due to the pandemic we’re all dealing with. None of these books are available at my local library, and the library frankly can’t keep up with my reading needs these days! Perhaps some of you could tell me which of these titles I should buy first?

The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone book cover. Image on cover shows a girl riding on a snow dragon.

The Snow Dragon by Abi Elphinstone

Blurb:

In Griselda Bone’s gloomy orphanage, daydreaming is banned, skipping is forbidden and Christmas is well and truly cancelled. But for Phoebe and her sausage dog Herb, is it possible that, just when things seem at their bleakest, magic awaits in the swirling, snow-filled air?Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley book cover. Image on cover is of cottage in the woods. A child is sitting on a tree branch breathing in the smoke from the cottage.

 

 

 

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley

Mischievous woodland fairy Nix is up to no good. His beloved fairy queen has gone away, leaving him with a very important job: He must protect the forest from a most dangerous enemy—humans.

When a determined invader trespasses on his territory, Nix’s skills are put to the test as he invents several wicked tricks to chase the sorry fellow away. But when his efforts don’t go quite according to plan, it becomes clear that this intruder—and this sprite—may not be at all what they seem.

The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright book cover. Image on cover is of a sheer curtain blowing in front a wooden chair in a crumbling room. The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Left at an orphanage as a child, Thea Reed vowed to find her mother someday. Now grown, her search takes her to Pleasant Valley, Wisconsin, in 1908. When clues lead her to a mental asylum, Thea uses her experience as a post-mortem photographer to gain access and assist groundskeeper Simeon Coyle in photographing the patients and uncovering the secrets within. However, she never expected her personal quest would reawaken the legend of Misty Wayfair, a murdered woman who allegedly haunts the area and whose appearance portends death.

A century later, Heidi Lane receives a troubling letter from her mother–who is battling dementia–compelling her to travel to Pleasant Valley for answers to her own questions of identity. When she catches sight of a ghostly woman who haunts the asylum ruins in the woods, the long-standing story of Misty Wayfair returns–and with it, Heidi’s fear for her own life.

As two women across time seek answers about their identities and heritage, can they overcome the threat of the mysterious curse that has them inextricably intertwined?

What I Carry by Jennifer Longo

What I Carry by Jennifer Longo book cover. Image on cover is of stylized drawings of plants in blue, green, purple, and yellow hues.Growing up in foster care, Muir has lived in many houses. And if she’s learned one thing, it is to Pack. Light. Carry only what fits in a suitcase.

Toothbrush? Yes. Socks? Yes. Emotional attachment to friends? foster families? a boyfriend? Nope! There’s no room for any additional baggage.

Muir has just one year left before she ages out of the system. One year before she’s free. One year to avoid anything–or anyone–that could get in her way.

Then she meets Francine. And Kira. And Sean.

And everything changes.

Hyperlink from Hell: A Couch Potato’s Guide to the Afterlife by Lindy Moone

Hyperlink from Hell: A Couch Potato's Guide to the Afterlife by Lindy Moone book cover. Image on cover is of bats flying around a belfry.

Murder haunts The Haven, celebrity James Canning’s home since he lost touch with Reality TV. What’s his “shrink” to do? Assign writing therapy, of course. But when the good doc reads Canning’s memoir, Hyperlink from Hell, he checks into his own padded suite and Canning disappears. To save the doc from madness, The Haven’s new director must analyze the hell out of Hyperlink from Hell. Is Canning’s tale of kidnapping, murder, time travel and wardrobe malfunction fact or fiction, deceit or delusion? Can she solve the murders, save her boss and find Canning? Or will she need a padded suite of her own?

“Hyperlink from Hell: A Couch Potato’s Guide to the Afterlife” isn’t just the latest of the funny vampire books. It’s the great American mystery… in hyperdrive.

Defying Doomsday by Tsana Dolchva

Defying Doomsday by Tsana Dolchva book cover. Image on cover is of a woman with a robotic leg walking towards strangers on a cracked, barren landscape. Teens form an all-girl band in the face of an impending comet.

A woman faces giant spiders to collect silk and protect her family.

New friends take their radio show on the road in search of plague survivors.

A man seeks love in a fading world.

How would you survive the apocalypse?

Defying Doomsday is an anthology of apocalypse fiction featuring disabled and chronically ill protagonists, proving it’s not always the “fittest” who survive – it’s the most tenacious, stubborn, enduring and innovative characters who have the best chance of adapting when everything is lost.

In stories of fear, hope and survival, this anthology gives new perspectives on the end of the world, from authors Corinne Duyvis, Janet Edwards, Seanan McGuire, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Stephanie Gunn, Elinor Caiman Sands, Rivqa Rafael, Bogi Takács, John Chu, Maree Kimberley, Octavia Cade, Lauren E Mitchell, Thoraiya Dyer, Samantha Rich, and K Evangelista.

3 Things I Like About Yoga

women doing yoga

While I briefly dabbled with trying yoga once many years ago, I actually dove into it for real a couple of weeks ago.

With all of the restrictions on when and why we’re permitted to leave our homes in Toronto these days due to the Covid-19 epidemic, this seemed like the perfect time to branch out and try something new.

Here are a few wonderful things that have stood out to me about this form of exercise as I’ve been acclimating to it. I’m keeping this post short and sweet because I’m still so new to yoga in general. Perhaps I’ll write longer posts about it in the future!

If any of you have been doing this form of exercise longterm, I’d sure love to hear your favourite things about it as well.

The Focus on Balance and Flexibility

Black silhouettes of various yoga posts against a white background. All of my other regular workout routines are heavily immersed in cardio and strength training exercises.

Yoga requires my body to bend and flex in ways that are quite different from dancing or lifting weights.

Instead of bracing myself to lift a heavy load or pivot to a new dance move, I’m learning how to better hold my balance with a tricky position and gently stretch just a little bit further every time.

The Attention Paid to Breathing Patterns

Dandelion seeds being blown away from a mature dandelion plant. Breathing isn’t something I consciously think about with other forms of exercise unless I’m out of breath for them.

Even then, the only aspect of it that crosses my mind is generally how many seconds or minutes are left until my body can slow down and catch up on some of the air it requires.

The incredible thing about yoga is how much your breath matter even though I’ve yet to become out of breath with any of the poses I’ve done so far.

I’ve actually started to pay closer attention to my breathing during times of the day when I’m not exercising as well as a result of these workouts.

It’s so interesting to see how these sessions are affecting me in that way. This wasn’t something I was expecting to happen at all.

The Reinforcement of Mindfulness

White clouds against a bright blue skyYoga is the slowest type exercise I’ve ever discovered. Everything about it encourages me to pay close attention to what I’m currently doing and think of nothing but holding my current pose.

There is something incredibly relaxing about turning away from all of the distractions of the world we currently live in and existing in a moment.

The fact that I can do that while also getting a good workout in only makes it better.

Hopeful Science Fiction: Monsters Come Howling in Their Season

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Recently, I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago. This is the fourth story from this anthology I’ve covered here, and I will eventually blog about all of them.

There are mild spoilers in this post. 

Monsters Come Howling in Their Season

Like many of the other stories in my Hopeful Science Fiction series, this might not sound like a particularly hopeful place to begin. Keep reading.

The characters in this tale were ordinary, mostly working class people who pooled their resources together for the greater good. I love seeing this perspective in the science fiction genre. There’s something heartwarming about finding out how characters who aren’t wealthy or powerful protect their community from climate change.

Some of the most compelling scenes were the ones that described how the AI was designed to function, especially once it became too complex even for programmers to fully understand. It truly had everyone’s best intentions in mind.

Technology might have caused climate change, but it was also a force for a lot of good in this world. That is such a refreshing change for this genre.

I also appreciated the way the characters’ emotional reactions to hurricane season were portrayed. Violent storms like that are dangerous as Dr. Stevens and her community were far too aware of already. The act of finding hope for people whose lives had been turned upside down by hurricanes that happened before the AI was developed only made these changes in their lives more poignant.

As complete as it story felt in and of itself, I wished it could have been expanded into a full-length novel. There was so much more I wanted to know about the characters and the artificial intelligence they’d created to protect and provide for them during hurricane season.

Maybe someday we’ll get that sequel. In the meantime, this was such a soothing thing to read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Signs You’re a Book Lover

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl 1. If you visit a new city, you immediately look for the nearest bookstore or library. 2. If you’ve ever taken a cruise, packing enough reading material is more important than remembering that extra outfit or having room for a souvenir. 3.You quote your favourite books without necessarily mentioning… Read More

A Photo Essay of Toronto in March

Note: I wrote this post in early March before Toronto began shutting down businesses and public places in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There were no restrictions on travel, spending time near other people, or park usage at the time of my visit. What April’s post in this series will be like still remains to be seen.… Read More

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Favourite Things to Do in the Spring

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. I’ve been looking forward to this prompt for weeks. Spring is my favourite season, and it’s the nicest time of year in Ontario in my opinion!… Read More