Netflix thriller alive with twists and turns

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A creepy, cold, effective sci-fi thriller in the vein of "Black Mirror," "I Am Mother" keeps viewers guessing and their heads spinning.   

Director Grant Sputore and writer Michael Lloyd Green craft a small, believable world where the truth keeps shifting from underneath the feet of the viewer. It's a nifty trick with plenty of payoff, and spells promising things ahead for both talents.   

Speaking of promising, Clara Rugaard makes a lasting impression as the lead in her biggest performance to date. She plays a character known simply as Daughter, who is raised in an underground lab by her robot mommy, known as Mother (Rose Byrne, in the most effective voice performance since Scarlett Johansson in "Her") following an extinction-level event.

Mother cares deeply for Daughter, singing her "Baby Mine" — used more effectively here than in the recent "Dumbo" — and caring for her just like a flesh-and-blood mother. Their relationship is so tender it's almost heartbreaking.

Then a survivor, Woman (Hilary Swank) comes knocking at their door and changes everything. She wins the trust of Daughter and opens her eyes to the reality of her situation, but Mother has answers for all the questions Daughter raises, as well as her own doubts about Woman and her motivations. Who to believe, who to trust? "I Am Mother" plays a nimble game of hopscotch as it doles out story elements one breadcrumb at a time. 

Sputore, working with spare elements, heightens tensions at every turn, and gets the most out of his dynamic, all-female cast. "I Am Mother" is a knockout. 

'I Am Mother'

GRADE: B+

Rated TV-14: Violence, adult situations

Running time: 113 minutes

On Netflix

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

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