The Movie Waffler New Release Review - T.I.M. | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - T.I.M.

T.I.M. review
A robotics engineer is gifted a prototype android servant, with increasingly sinister results.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Spencer Brown

Starring: Georgina Campbell, Eamon Farren, Mark Rowley, Nathaniel Parker, Amara Karan

T.I.M. poster

Like this year's other Artificial Intelligence thriller, M3GAN, T.I.M. arrives fortuitously at a time when the dangers of AI have become mainstream news. Human workers have found themselves replaced by machines since the industrial revolution, but the rapid advancements in AI and its equally swift adoption by cost and corner cutting corporations we've witnessed in the past few months is striking. Machines have long been performing menial tasks, but now we're seeing artists lose work to AI. At time of writing, Hollywood's actors and writers are currently on strike as they seek assurances that the studios won't replace them with AI. Online articles are prefaced with disclaimers telling you they were "written" by AI. Perhaps the scariest part of all this is how so many humans are celebrating this sudden shift, treating the likes of Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg as rock stars rather than the men responsible for ushering forth the coming robopocalypse.

The thing about AI as a creative tool of course is that it relies on the prior work of billions of humans over scores of centuries. At least for now, an AI model can't create something original, it can only riff off what came before. That said, that's the case with a lot of human created movies.

T.I.M. review

Take T.I.M. for example. It may be dealing with a very timely issue, but it's essentially a high-tech update of a very old thriller format, that of the evil nanny/servant. Its plot beats are recognisable to anyone who has seen the likes of The Nanny, The Servant and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. But it manages to smartly integrate current concerns into a second hand narrative.

In the near future (or perhaps right now; who knows how quickly this sort of stuff is developing?), robotics engineer Abi (Georgina Campbell) takes a job at Integrate Robotics, who are developing Technologically Integrated Manservants, or TIMs for short. A TIM is basically a human-looking android programmed to take care of all household chores. There's one issue though – the hands don't quite work correctly. It's up to Abi to come up with a quick solution so her company can "beat the Chinese" and rush TIM to market.

Along with being gifted a plush new home for herself and hubby Paul (Mark Rowley), Abi is given a prototype TIM. Paul doesn't like the idea of having this uncanny valley looking twerp constantly hanging around, but Abi is unable to return the droid as her boss insists it would look bad if one of his employees refused his product.

T.I.M. review

TIM is played with quiet menace by Eamon Farren, whose stoic features make him ideal casting for an evil robot. TIM is a classic case of a tin man who wants a heart. He feels something for Abi, and questions her on what "love" is. Of course, things that we can't explain like love are what separate us from machines, and Abi's inability to give him a clear answer frustrates the droid. Thus follows the classic narrative of the interloping home help, as TIM schemes and manipulates his way into prising Abi away from Paul.

It's here that director Spencer Brown and co-writer Sarah Govett integrate timely issues regarding how much of our privacy we sacrifice for the sake of what is billed as an easier life. TIM is given access to Abi and Paul's passwords, which allows him to scan through old emails looking for "gotcha" moments to use against the latter, who was recently caught cheating on Abi. Our current paranoia about deepfake technology comes into play too, with TIM using his editing skills to create damning fake footage. The idea of a new product being rushed to the market before it's fully operational will resonate with anyone who purchased a piece of new tech only to find it required several updates to perform its actual functions.

T.I.M. review

T.I.M. functions as an engaging tech thriller but it lacks the satirical edge of M3GAN. It's more concerned with exploiting our fears than satirising them, but it never quite goes far enough. There's an undercurrent of Paul's emasculation that's never really explored. If TIM can perform every task more efficiently than any human, does this carry into the bedroom? Does TIM possess genitalia or is he like a Ken doll down there? There's also a subplot regarding Abi and Paul's attempts to conceive a child that initially made me suspect the film was set to go down the same route as Donald Cammell's Demon Seed, but this plotline never really goes anywhere.

Something T.I.M. does quietly tap into is the dehumanisation of those who perform manual labour. The English middle class accented Abi is comfortable walking around in various states of undress in the presence of TIM because she views him merely as a computer while her working class Scottish hubby can't relate to such an idea. The privileged have been treating their workers as robots for centuries, so little wonder they might embrace the real thing.

 is on Netflix UK/ROI from August 16th.

2023 movie reviews