First-time director Grant Sputore had a low budget and a lot of ideas. He managed to work most of those ideas into I Am Mother, aided in part by a remarkable robot that was created in a way simultaneously old-school and new. Weta Workshop out of New Zealand, alongside project supervisor Luke Hawker, created a life-size humanoid robot, mostly bypassing CGI. Hawker then put the robot suit on, rather like Haruo Nakajima in all those Godzilla movies. This old way of making a monster feels once again new, and the robot moves and "acts" seamlessly. Add in Rose Byrne as the robot's voice (the robot is called "Mother"), and you have a quite believable creature right in the middle of the film.
As for all those ideas, Sputore throws up one homage after another ... Blade Runner, Ex Machina, Battlestar Galactica, and 2001 come to mind. Sputore borrows from lots of movies, but puts it together in a unique enough way to make it interesting in its own right. You might find this or that plot turn to be reminiscent of another film, but that thought only occurs to you after the fact. There are plot twists a-plenty, but you don't see them coming until they've reminded you of that other movie, and by then, Sputore has moved on again.
In all of this, I Am Mother is helped by some fine acting. New-to-me Danish actor Clara Rugaard is the core of the entire film as "Daughter", a human grown by "Mother" from an embryo. She convinces us that her emotional attachment to her robot mom is real, and then handles whatever Sputore gives her the rest of the way. Hilary Swank turns up with her usual solid performance ... I am regularly amazed that Hilary Swank has two Oscars, even though her wins were deserved ... I just don't picture Hilary Swank when I imagine a dual-Oscar winner.
I Am Mother is far from perfect. As Matt Zoller Seitz pointed out, "The most frustrating thing about 'I Am Mother' is the way it favors the unveiling of plot twists over nearly everything else, including characterization, theme, and the related pleasures of world-building." Still, those plot twists, along with the clever rearranging of homages, and the creation known as Mother, make I Am Mother much better than I expected.