MOTHER/ANDROID– starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Algee Smith, and Raúl Castillo – releases internationally on January 7 on Netflix*The personal origin story has driven Tomlin to write this movie which also marks his feature directorial debut*The movie hit theatres on December 17
Romanian-born Mattson Tomlin, who has quite an outstanding career so far between PROJECT POWER, LITTLE FISH, is making his feature directorial debut with the upcoming sci-fi thriller MOTHER/ ANDROID.
The film – starring Chloë Grace Moretz, Algee Smith, and Raúl Castillo – releases internationally on January 7 on Netflix. You can view the trailer here.
This isn’t your ordinary robopocalypse film, but a film that tells the intimate story about creating new life in a dying world. MOTHER/ANDROID follows a young and expecting couple who embark on a treacherous journey to safety when their country is caught in an unexpected war with artificial intelligence. The film boasts moving performances from both Moretz and Smith in a heartfelt depiction of the lengths one must sometimes endure to protect their family at all costs. The mood is equal parts spooky and gut-wrenching – a subtle and touching nod to Tomlin’s personal adoption story.
In his words, “…in order to deliver a personal story that acknowledges the pain and extreme acts of selfless love that were demanded of the two people who brought me into this world. This film is a love letter to them.”
Set in the near future, MOTHER/ANDROID follows Georgia (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her boyfriend Sam (Algee Smith) through their treacherous journey of escape as their country is caught in an unexpected war with artificial intelligence. Days away from the arrival of their first child, they must face No Man’s Land – a stronghold of the android uprising, in hopes of reaching safety before giving birth.
Mattson Tomlin is screenwriter/director, best known for his original screenplay of the Netflix film PROJECT POWER starring Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He also scripted and produced the film LITTLE FISH starring Olivia Cooke and recently made his directorial debut with the upcoming MOTHER/ANDROID starring Chloë Grace Moretz. He is currently writing the feature film adaptation of the Boom! comic book series BRZRKR starring Keanu Reeves and is show running the upcoming Netflix TERMINATOR anime series. In 2021, he added comic book writer to his resume, with the DC Black Label title BATMAN: THE IMPOSTER. Tomlin was born in Romania during its Revolution and grew up in Massachusetts, later attending college in New York at SUNY Purchase. He went on to study directing at the American Film Institute, and appeared on the annual Black List six times in four years. He lives in Los Angeles and is prepping his next film to direct.
Read below an exclusive interview gave by Mattson Tomlin to Nine O’Clock:
-Mattson, you define yourself on Instagram and Twitter as a “Filmmaker Who Cares”. What do you care about?
-“Who Cares?” is a reminder to myself to push the work into a primal and emotional place. I value character and emotion over everything in story and I’m always asking myself, is the “who cares” strong enough here? Are the reasons these characters are doing what they’re doing earned and accessible? We’re in an era with Hollywood filmmaking where there’s so much value placed on spectacle and a fast rhythm of storytelling that it’s easy to lose sight of the thing that matters most: how the story makes you feel.
–Why is the name of the movie MOTHER/ANDROID ?
-When I first began writing, I created a folder that just said MOTHER ANDROID because it was descriptive of the two major elements of the project, it was never meant to be the finished title. But going through the thought exercise of alternate names, coming up with something that really resonated and didn’t feel cheap or just unrelated proved to be challenging. There was something so brutally clear and elemental about the two words together, and the slash makes it the conflict between the two. Ultimately I love it because it’s a title that is simultaneously weird and kind of nonsensical, and at the same time says it all.
–Your personal origin story has driven you as main inspiration to write this movie. What is the main message you want to convey with the movie which also marks your feature directorial debut?
-I had spent many years prior to this trying to launch a career as a director after having broken into Hollywood as a screenwriter. After writing many different scripts, I realized I needed to write something so personal that I would be the only person who could make it. That realization brought me to a place where I understood I had to tell my own story. I was adopted out of Bucharest when I was an infant in the summer of 1990 and I know very few details about the circumstances of my biological parents. I took the details I do have and wanted to construct them into a love letter to these people who went through an extremely stressful and impossible situation bringing me into this world.
-How has the experience of being a screenwriter combined with that of a director?
-Working as a screenwriter, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of different directors on other projects. That’s given me the experience of getting to be involved in a directors process and learn from their successes and their mistakes in ways that have been invaluable to me. When it finally came time for me to direct, I had already seen three movies I had written go into production, so I was carrying a lot of experience. As far as being a writer/director… Being both gives you an incredible amount of control over the story. There’s a greater ease to the process of writing because I’m not needing to convey ideas on the page that a director is going to have to translate, I’m going to be translating it myself. There’s a freedom to the shorthand that means I can start the work of a director in my writing. Being the writer/director makes you the ultimate authority on the story in a way that just isn’t comparable when you’re just the writer.
– Please fill the missing word/words: MOTHER/ANDROID is a manifesto for…..
-Facing the unthinkable and making the hard decisions out of love. MOTHER/ANDROID feels like it’s out of step with American cinema in a lot of ways because it has an extremely unconventional ending as far as studio films made in the Hollywood system go. Early in the process I was making notes for myself and I wrote a sticky note and placed it on the window by my desk that the movie was, in part, about “the fall of the belief that American resiliency protects from reality. America is not immune.” I wrote this note to myself before the pandemic so it may seem trite and obvious from 2022, but the reality is that American culture talks itself into believing it’s above problems that the rest of the world has to face. The events of something like the Romanian Revolution, “well that can’t happen here.” I disagree. The ending of the movie, and the decision Georgia faces in how to move forward with her life. It’s not the kind of thing American audiences face even though of course these kind of difficult choices are part of daily life in every country.
–What was the most difficult scene to shoot? The funniest?
-By far the most difficult scene was the closing scenes on the pier. It’s a very long scene in terms of the page count. We had one day to shoot it. It involved a baby, cameras on moving boats, and the highest emotional intensity of the entire film. Logistically, so many things could have gone wrong. We were shooting on a floating dock in Boston harbor. I wanted rain, and magically got it, but if there had been wind, it would have been extremely disruptive. We wouldn’t have been able to do it. Harnessing all of the elements and hoping they hold the way I want them to in order to not have to think about them, to be able to instead be there and support Chloë and Algee as they’re going into an extremely vulnerable place. That scene is the reason I made the movie and I’m so proud of the actors and the crew for working together on an impossible day in terms of both the logistic and emotion.
I’m not sure there were any funny scenes, but a scene that stands out as a funny situation to me was a scene where Algee Smith’s character Sam comes down the stairs having found a polaroid camera and shows Chloë Grace Moretz’s Georgia that they can take a family photo. He just has to come into the room and show her he’s got the camera. It’s a hopeful moment. It was scripted that Sam carries a mattress into the room for a little bit of physical comedy. It’s supposed to be a really simple scene but it just was not working. We were shooting a wide shot first, and the camera didn’t feel motivated, my blocking felt off. Everything about the scene felt wrong. I knew it, Pat Scola, my cinematographer knew it, Chloë and Algee could feel it. It just wasn’t right. We had 15 minutes before wrapping and it was our last day in that location. In that moment I felt like a total fraud. The scene should be so easy but it wasn’t right.
We made a quick decision to just pop in closer and as we’re finding the frame, I reblock the scene and Pat and I start searching for the right movement. Algee ended up putting his hand on Chloë’s belly, and suddenly that unlocked everything. There was a motivated movement which could move the camera, and we could shoot the entire scene in one shot, that goes from Algee, down to the photo in his hand, to the hand that touches Chloë, to Chloë’s eyes meeting his — it made a circle, and the movement timed with their motions and the scene perfectly. It’s so subtle, but it is a ballet, and one of my favorite shots in the movie. The emotional whiplash of the situation is one of the funnier moments for me as a filmmaker. In a span of five minutes, I went from “I’m a total fraud and I don’t know what I’m doing” to “this is my favorite shot.” It was a good lesson to listen to our instincts and keep pushing for it to feel right.
–What memories do you have of Romania? What is your Romanian legacy?
-In very real ways, my “Romanian legacy” starts with this film. I don’t have memories of Romania. I was out of the country very soon after my birth, and while I’m thankful to have been kept alive and given the life I was given, it did create a very real separation from the place I am from. As strange as it sounds, the movie serves as a kind of bridge for me personally. The filmmaker side in dialogue with these pieces of my origin story have completely reopened my relationship to my adoption, which in turn completely reopened my relationship to Romania. I hope to be back soon.
–What’s next after this project? What follows on the scale of professional perfection?
-Now begins the process of getting another movie off the ground to direct. I’ll spend much of 2022 working on that and continuing to work as a screenwriter. I’m very lucky to be able to switch gears and go from one mode to the other. I’ve recently finished writing the first season of a TERMINATOR anime series for Netflix, and have begun adapting BRZRKR with Keanu Reeves. At the end of 2021 I had my first comic book come out with BATMAN: THE IMPOSTER, and have found a way to carve out time so I can continue pushing along a career in comics and I also work in film. I’m not sure professional perfection is possible, but I am lucky to have the opportunity to work so much and will keep looking for the “Who Cares?” with everything I do.
Photos: https://hulu.app.box.com and Instagram/Mattson Tomlin