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Mother/Android First Look: A Pregnant Woman vs. the Robopocalypse

Chloë Grace Moretz stars in a surprisingly intimate story about creating new life in a dying world.

It sounds strange to claim that an apocalyptic sci-fi epic about a robot uprising is actually a deeply personal family drama, but that’s the true backstory behind Mother/Android.  

Chloë Grace Moretz plays Georgia, a 19-year-old college student who learns she’s pregnant on the night that legions of service robots, which society has come to rely upon for labor, stage a mass revolt, exterminating their human overlords and scattering survivors into the wilderness. She and boyfriend Sam (Algee Smith)—who weren’t even sure they wanted to keep dating, let alone become parents—are now refugees depending on each other for survival as she tries to bring her baby to term under the harshest and deadliest of conditions.

Writer-director Mattson Tomlin (cowriter of next year’s The Batman) drew upon scraps of personal experience for the story, which debuts Dec. 17 on Hulu. In real life he was the baby. “The movie is a very loose adaptation of my adoption story,” Tomlin tells Vanity Fair. “I was born in 1990, right after the Romanian revolution. I was born in Bucharest. And the story is a retelling using the three or four things that I know about my origin. My parents were extremely young and found out they were pregnant—and then their whole world blew up.”

Georgia and Sam, unwelcome in a camp of soldiers.

Hulu

The initial protests that led to the 1989 downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu resulted in the initial deaths of 162 demonstrators. More than 1,100 would die in the events that followed as decades of Communist rule came to an agonizing end. Tomlin only knows fragments of how his birth parents coped, so he used his imagination—and obsessive love of genre storytelling—to fill in the rest.

“I spent years trying to figure out what my first movie was going to be,” Tomlin says. “I’d come up with lots of different scripts, lots of different stories, and it was very Goldilocks: This one’s too big. This one’s too small. Finally, a friend of mine said, ‘You need to stop writing all of these different ideas and just do something that’s so viciously personal that you’re the only person in the world that can do it.’”

In Mother/Android, the inhumanity the couple is fleeing takes the form of beings that look like us and sound like us, apart from eyes that sometimes flash with concave reflective lenses, like the glance of a nocturnal animal caught in a flashlight beam. Beneath their everyday human faces, these robots—who worked as waiters, drivers, butlers, and clerks—have terrifying metal endoskeletons, relentless machine strength, and a hive mind intelligence. “It’s not until the androids start to get damaged that they reveal themselves,” Tomlin says. “That created some narrative possibilities of Georgia and Sam being in the woods. Why are they not with a big group? It’s because you can’t trust anybody else. You don’t quite know who people are. You end up not really being able to depend on your fellow man, because are they even your fellow man?”

Georgia in camouflage, facing the telltale blue eyes of the androids.

Hulu

Sharing the full story of what happened to Tomlin’s birth parents would give away key aspects of the plot, but suffice to say that he is only alive because his mother, just like Georgia, shrewdly navigated unspeakable hardship. “You have this woman who’s 19, and her world has been turned upside down. The country around her is just on fire, and she’s not got any good options in front of her,” he says.

Tough mothers are a classic trope in sci-fi, but it’s rare that a woman who is nine months pregnant gets to be the rescuer, the leader, and the fighter in a genre action-adventure. “I wanted somebody who, of course, could be strong, but I think that in Hollywood, there’s this tendency to think that a strong woman just means: grit your teeth and have a gun,” Tomlin says. “There’s a lot of strength in being vulnerable too. And Chloë was such an amazing partner to me in making this movie, because we would have lots of conversations about what female strength is and when that vulnerability shows and when those insecurities show. To hurt, to feel pain, that’s not weakness. That’s just being human.”

The service-work robots of Mother/Android, which revolt against humanity.

Hulu

Sam is doing his best to be helpful, but there’s a reason Georgia has never been sure he’s right for her. He’s impulsive, hotheaded, and, sometimes, he’s just lost. Both Georgia and the audience are left wondering: Is this the guy whom I want to survive the apocalypse with?

“Not having that be a surefire ‘yes’…that’s interesting,” Tomlin says. “That push and pull was about creating a real relationship. It’s not that they are completely in love, head over heels, and would die for each other from the start. Hopefully, by the end of the movie, you get to a point where you feel like, Oh, they’ve earned the right to call each other family.”

The couple aren’t completely alone. They seek help from small outposts of surviving military personnel but aren’t exactly welcomed. To actual soldiers, they’re a burden, a pair of resource consumers. And no one really cares if Georgia’s pregnant. There’s no room at the inn for them.

Arthur, the loner who urges Georgia to save herself and no one else.

Hulu

One man who does choose to help the couple is Arthur, a hermit and seeming madman, played by Raúl Castillo. He’s a former computer programmer who has developed a jagged, light-speckled cloak that can distort the visual receptors of the androids. Essentially, it’s camouflage. But he urges Georgia to use it as intended: as a way to hide, not as a tool for rescuing others.

“She meets him in this area that everybody calls No-Man’s-Land because there are no people. It’s just overrun with androids,” Tomlin says. Arthur’s a survivor too, but seeing Georgia pregnant leads him to disregard his usual instincts. “You get this sense that this man has horror stories of all the people that he’s lost. And he’s looking at her as a path of redemption.”

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