Two Films For St Valentine’s



How much control could AI have over us? Far from setting us free, what if the effects were an increased sense of isolation? Big questions not to be answered in a rom-com, and yet here one is. In ‘I’m Your Man’, Alma (Maren Eggert) is a cuneiform expert who agrees to get project funding by living for three weeks with Tom, a humanoid robot (Dan Stevens). He’s designed to learn from her, altering his algorithms according to her feedback even when she throws a drink in his face or locks him in the ironing cupboard.

Alma is a sharp-tongued academic, not especially lonely, perhaps a tad too independent. Tom is programmed to fulfil all the needs she doesn’t know she has. But she’s an avowedly ‘difficult’ woman who remains unimpressed by his romantic programming, which includes sickly Hallmark compliments, quoting Rilke and strewing rose petals in the bathtub.

But then comes a tiptoe into transgression. If Tom’s circuitry can come to understand the intricacies of the heart, why should Alma’s phobic attitude to AI remain? Are we all just overreacting to change, as we always have in the past? Or is it simply the idea that no matter how human a machine can be it will merely make you feel more alone? Maria Schrader, an actor so terrific in the ‘Deutchland ’89’ series, here directs, coaxing subtle, thoughtful performances from Eggart and Stevens (speaking fluent German) in a film that’s been a huge hit in Europe. File it with ‘The Laws of Thermodynamics’ in the Philosophical Romance Films box.

(I love the above rating from the New York Times.)


‘Compartment No.6’ is a more realistic spin on the saccharine ‘Before Sunrise’, with Laura (Seidi Haarla), a Finnish archaeology student trying to fit in with her college’s resident pseudo-intellectuals, taking off after the end of a love affair to visit some petroglyphs in Murmansk by train. I’ve long wanted to do one leg of this journey from Finland into Russia, but the film has put me off, although admittedly it’s set in the early 90s, when the trains were overcrowded, draughty and controlled by taciturn guards.

Laura finds herself sharing the chaotic carriage – and horrible food – with a loutishly crude Russian builder, Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov), heading for contract work in a mine. After failing to find another berth she resolves herself to the shared trip, but Ljoha’s commitment and energy come as a shock. Used to being ignored and attacked, he always expects to fight back, so when Laura asks questions he is at a loss how to answer. Gradually the barriers are broken down as Ljoha becomes determined to get her to the impossible-to-reach rock carvings. Ljoha sees in her a glimmer of a more fulfilling life, but the odds are massively stacked against them.

23 comments on “Two Films For St Valentine’s”

  1. Mary Ann Atwood says:

    Cross-life-form canoodling? Is this anything to do with pasta? 🙂

  2. BarbaraBoucke says:

    I realize that this is completely off topic, but I ordered a copy of an old book from a bookseller on Abe books. It arrived yesterday in a padded envelope with the sides stapled. Does Maggie Armitage have a relative in Ohio!??

  3. Wayne Mook says:

    Tinned tuna squid pasta bake is my guess Mary.

    Since St. Valentine is also the patron saint of beekeeper I think the Swarm.


  4. Peter T says:

    Rose petals in the bath tub: let’s hope he’s programmed to clear drain traps.

  5. admin says:

    Does anybody else want this job? It’s unpaid and requires a lot of patience. Here we have Peter Tromans worrying about blocked drains and Wayne Mook thinking about The Swarm. I should imagine most women dread Valentines Day.

  6. John+Griffin says:

    Being hetero and male requires the, almost impossible, mental gymnastics to work out the way to a specific woman’s heart. I am still discovering after two decades what works for my beloved. Some efforts, early on, were catastrophic. Rose petals, scented bath stuff, candles and sparkling wine turned out to be a NO-NO! I also discovered she utterly hated health/beauty treatments having bought her a spa morning. I’d have been better off taking her to IKEA shopping or buying her a hoodie. Such is romance.

  7. Jo W says:

    You’re quite correct, Christopher. When we are young we suffer when we don’t get a “valentine” card. Later on we fret when a birthday or anniversary card is missed. As for unsuitable gifts, the sooner an arrangement is reached that presents are bought as they are needed, not guessed at, harmony exists (sort of).
    Valentines Day is a load of cobxxxxx, oops, twaddle!

  8. Peter T says:

    Women (and men) are far more down to earth than Hollywood and advertising would have us believe. LOML and I have been together since meeting in a smokey bar in 1975. I can say with absolute certainty that she would be ecstatic if I bought her a repeat flowering rose and planted it in our garden, but a drain-blocking bath of rose petals would go down like a bath in boiled cabbage.

  9. Joan says:

    Romance is for the young, idealistic and maybe not so young, rose petals sound wonderful, but not in the bath! Unfortunately with the birth of the first child, reality kicks in, and romance flees to be replaced by practically. However it is a much needed mirage to dream, and read about to get through our days.

  10. Sally says:

    My beloved is 34 years younger than me, is knock down dead handsome, has a PhD in the hard sciences and makes me feel loved. Every single minute of every single day he looks after me. What I need, what I want, where I’m going, he is right there. We have a 27 year history together and no matter the age difference the companionship is always right on target. How did I get so lucky? No worry about cards or gifts. When you know how important you are to your loved one everything else is an accessory. Neither one of us has children so I’m speaking from that viewpoint. He tells me I’m special and I believe him. That’s great stuff! All you guys who are wrapped up in the appearances, forget it. If that’s what she is all about you can’t win. Look her in the eyes, be sure you have her attention, tell her what she means to you. If that’s not enough, keep on looking.

  11. mike says:

    I don’t think I’ve pleased my wife in 53 years of marriage. A naturally antagonostic woman.
    Whatever I do is wrong. I stopped trying some 40 odd years ago.

  12. Peter T says:

    Mike, Find a nice Valentine card for her. Draw some little picture, cartoon or similar to put inside. And, with a little luck, the antagonism will melt. If it doesn’t work first time, persist.

  13. Helen+Martin says:

    My goodness, Mike, you must have pleased her somehow and she must not be as antagonistic as you say or this pairing could never have lasted so long. Having a bad day?
    People talk about women being romantic, but having to deal with a blocked drain even once would be enough to put most people off the idea of rose petals or anything else of that sort in the bath.

    re I’m Your Man. When we watch a scene with a humanoid robot we are always aware that the robot is actually being played by a human and that colours our reaction. It’s complicated.

  14. Wayne Mook says:

    My wife likes some romantic gestures but not Valentines, when I told about The Swarm as a Valentine film she laughed which was what I was aiming for.

    The thing is her birthday is the 11th of Feb, so I concentrate on that more.

    I think your the best at this job, I tend to be overly sarcastic and obsessed with evil bankers and turnips.


  15. Stu-I-Am says:

    Unusual film choices for what has become a commercially successful paen to romance (or ‘likeability’ at more tender ages) to the yearly tune of about £14bn/ USD19bn — but nowhere more unusual than the suggested origins of St Valentine’s/Valentine’s Day — or stranger. Yes, origins in the plural — whether from the Roman  feast of Lupercalia (13-15 Feb) where men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then whipped women with the hides of the animals they had just slain in a fertility rite — or related to the dispatch of two martyrs, both named Valentine, on 14 Feb of different years in the 3rd c. AD. And nary a word about Singles Awareness Day (15 Feb) or Galentine’s Day (13 Feb), the celebration of womanhood and female empowerment..

  16. Stu-I-Am says:

    For women who have become frustrated with dating apps and online ‘meet-and-cheat’ dating platforms and are now seriously considering kissing frogs, I offer this cautionary verse from a former contestant on the ill-fated ‘So You Want to Kiss a Frog!’

    About this business of kissing a frog,
    Allow me to tell you of my hard slog,
    The sad fact is, I’ve kissed four so far,
    And gotten three mini-ovens and a brand new car.
    But frog after frog, try as I might,
    Apart from these things,
    There’s no prince in sight

  17. Paul+C says:

    Recommend the new film Licorice Pizza as suitable for Valentine’s Day – a brilliant rom com set in California in the early 70s. Five star reviews in most of the UK press – even the Sunday Times (very rare).

  18. Martin Tolley says:

    At Uni I met a lovely girl who thought that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Worringly she was a medical student…

  19. Liz+Thompson says:

    Martin, that sounds like a book outline.

  20. Ian Luck says:

    Valentine’s day. Turned into the cash grab it is today by one of the big greetings card companies.
    Not having a romantic atom in my body, and with a very, very low tolerance of ‘slop’, I’d be tremendously offended and angry were I to ever receive a card on February 15. It would go in the recycling unopened, I fear.

  21. Jan says:

    Ian would your Valentine’s outrage actually be increased by the card being a day late?

  22. Ian Luck says:

    Jan – The thing’s very existence on the physical plane would be enough to cause apoplexy. I’d be that riled, I’d have to go out and drown things.

  23. Jan says:

    I’ll take that’s a ‘no’ then

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