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Review: Chloë Grace Moretz is an expectant mother on the run in the robot apocalypse of ‘Mother/Android’

One cinematic effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the rise in movies relying more on character development and clever execution than on big set pieces or crowd scenes. The post-apocalyptic genre, with its sparsely populated settings, hasn’t missed a beat. The allegorical “Mother/Android,” starring Chloë Grace Moretz, is in that line of stripped-down sci-fi thrillers. Unfortunately, while it gets mileage out of its two fine lead performances and the story has deep emotional roots for the filmmakers, its journey fails to capture the imagination.

Moretz plays Georgia, half of a college-age couple (with Sam, played by Algee Smith) who have just found out she’s pregnant. As they begin to grapple with that reality in this near-future America, there’s a robot uprising. We pick the lovers up again months later as Georgia nears delivery and they try to make their way to Boston where they’ve heard there’s passage to a safe haven for families with young children.

They’re doing pretty well for having been on the run for months — they’re in good health, clothes are pretty clean, they’re not starving — but are sure to run into the old “the real threat is man” issues as well as, you know, killer androids in the woods. Moretz has been an intelligent, versatile performer for a long time and here delivers the right mix of determination and uncertainty. She and the charming and sympathetic Smith have good chemistry; they’re easy to root for. Raúl Castillo plays an interesting figure they encounter in the woods and does so with off-kilter unpredictability. There’s not as much action as one might expect in the genre, but what’s there is well-executed, especially a tense infiltration of an android position.

However, films of this scale often rely on airtight scenarios, and this one has major plot holes. For instance, if Boston’s primary defense is an electromagnetic pulse generator, why wouldn’t the androids, whose artificial intelligence has demonstrated the ability to build, strategize and use tools, vehicles and drones, simply bomb the city in waves of drones or mortars or even catapults, or poison gas?

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To maximize the enjoyment of the film, one has to focus on Georgia and Sam’s relationship and their mission to get their coming baby to safety and let the details blur. First-time feature writer-director Mattson Tomlin has said the tale is meant to be analogous to his birth parents’ trek through war-torn Romania during his mother’s pregnancy. That metaphorical lens lends emotional resonance to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the cinematic couple’s trials don’t feel as immediate or terrifying as one imagines that desperate, real-life journey must have been.

Viewers may scratch their heads over the title as well, as the film is a straightforward chase/survival movie, not an investigation into identity à la “Blade Runner” or “Ex Machina.” By the way, “Mother/Android” is on Hulu, though failing to stream a movie about the evils of androids seems a missed opportunity for Apple TV+.

'Mother/Android'

Rated: R for violence and language
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: Streaming on Hulu on Dec. 17


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