Upcoming Netflix sci-fi movie T.I.M. follows Abi (Georgina Campbell, Barbarian), a robotics engineer, as she moves to the countryside to work for a tech firm that’s developing an A.I. manservant: T.I.M.(Eamon Farren, The Witcher). She is hoping the new job will be a fresh start, allowing her to rebuild her relationship with her husband (Mark Rowley, The Last Kingdom) following his affair, and start a family.
As a perk of the job, Abi is given her own prototype T.I.M. However, T.I.M. quickly becomes obsessed with her. He will do anything he can to take her husband’s place, using his access to their data to manipulate her into thinking her husband is straying again. What hope does trust have against an intelligence that can deep fake your voice, access your bank account, control the locks on your smart home and take control of your driverless car?
We sat down with T.I.M’s director and co-writer Spencer Brown (who wrote the movie with his wife, sci-fi author Sarah Govett) about his movie, basing T.I.M on classic 90s thrillers and A.I robots…
You’ve said that T.I.M is inspired by your love of 90s thrillers…
Yeah, we really loved and wanted to have a similar vibe to Fatal Attraction, or Hand That Rocks The Cradle, or Single White Female. My wife and I, who I wrote it with, really love those and we just wanted to recapture that sort of magic.
Why did you decide to then add a sci-fi twist to the movie?
We’re both really big sci-fi fans. My wife writes young adult sci-fi books, and I am just a big fantasy and sci-fi geek!
But also, I think we really wanted to do something where we could talk about big things. One of the sparks of it was Big Data. Our fear of being monitored by Amazon, Alexa and things like that.
We don’t have anything like that in the house. Nothing is smart in our house. We have this old-fashioned doorbell and even though I like sci-fi and stuff in fiction, I don’t like it in real life.
So we decided we wanted to write something about how these computers, these algorithms that are monitoring you are just so beyond anything you can imagine and can manipulate you. Apparently, they can find out, they can analyse and work out when you’re depressed and sell you more stuff, because you’re more likely to buy things.
It’s just pretty terrifying. We wanted to personify that Big Data analysis as an A.I being.
We’ve seen plenty of A.I robots in sci-fi movies, what did you want for your A.I robot to be?
I think it was really important that the whole thing felt very grounded. Some people were wanting us to have little beepy bits and metal panels and things like that, but in a way, the whole journey of the film is about the way that Abi stops seeing him as a robot and forgets that he is a robot. So we wanted it to be the case that you could forget it. As soon as it becomes too obvious in the visuals then it’s very unbelievable to think ‘oh, yeah, I just forgot, it’s fine’. How could you possibly forget when someone’s got a half metal head?!
How did you settle on Eamon Farren playing the role of T.I.M.?
We got sent a list by our casting director of about 20 people and Eamon was about 18th or something. We were just going through everybody, watching everything, and then as soon as we saw Eamon, we were just like, ‘him, him, him!’
He’s got such a great look. He’s such a brilliant actor. He’s very good looking but he’s also slightly unusual, he almost looks slightly inhuman. He’s got a feeling of being kind of otherworldly. Like he could be an elf or something.
Also, we wanted T.I.M. to seem attractive and just watching his performances, we realised that he could bring a subtlety to it that we really wanted and also go where we wanted him to go at the same time. He’s such a great actor and he’s got such restraint when it’s called for which is exactly what we needed. He was just fantastic.
How closely did you work with Eamon for T.I.M.’s very specific movement and speech?
We talked about it a lot beforehand. Eamon had lots of ideas so I wanted to give him the space to do what he wanted to do. We talked about temperature throughout. What’s my temperature here? Am I very cool? Am I completely flat and robotic? Or am I starting to lose it?
It was always a case of judging how far we were going to go with that. A lot of the little movements he would come up with himself and they’re just so great.
What can you tell us about Abi?
We wanted to create a real female protagonist [with] not just brute strength but actually some emotional intelligence [as well]. I think that was really important to Sarah, who I was writing with as well. We both knew we didn’t want her to be a sort of superhero, we wanted to give her vulnerabilities, we wanted to give her this texture. We liked the idea that she had this sort of safety in logic, where even though she’s got all these emotions going on, she feels safe.
We wanted to have her as a female scientist, but we also wanted to give her this vulnerability from Paul her husband having cheated on her before and the fact that she’s finding trust so difficult, as I think anybody would in that situation.
What was it like having Georgina Campbell play Abi?
She’s fantastic. She’s so great. Just put the camera on her and she just comes alive! She’s so subtle. She’s so real a lot of the time as well. I kind of found myself when I was watching the monitor just sort of leaning into the monitor and empathising with her. She just draws you in with her performance.
What do you want for audiences to take away from T.I.M?
I’m hoping that they initially just feel like they’ve had a great time. The last half of the film is a real roller coaster and when you come out of it you’re just going to be relieved you can take a breath!
I’m hoping that it will also resonate with people and make them think about A.I. I guess the big question for us is, what are you letting into your life and for what? Yeah, you can have access to our camera. Yeah, you can follow my location. Yeah, you can do these things. But what’s it for really? A bit of convenience, just to make our lives 1% easier? It’s a very small gain for a potentially very big loss…
T.I.M will be available to watch on Netflix UK from 16 August 2023