In this cold, pristine future, people are emotionally stunted on purpose. At conception the babies DNA is damaged to remove those emotions and human desires that are so inconvenient and dangerous. And thus they grow up smoothly into good workers and passive citizens. Except, occasionally they get the emotions back. This is considered a disease called SOS (Switched On Syndrome). The search is on for a cure, but until then, it's a fatal disease -- because once the "sick" reach a certain point they are locked up and encouraged to commit suicide.
|Good grief I love science fiction.|
Silas (Nicholas Hoult) is an average citizen, with a good job as a concept artist with the space program. (It's a scientifically advanced futuristic society -- of course there's a space program!) But, worried after he has nightmare, he goes for a check-up, and is diagnosed with SOS, stage 1. Now socially pitied and politely outcast he is slowly and unwillingly overcome with feeling. Soon he notices a girl who he has always worked with, but sees differently now. Nia (Kristen Stewart) seems to have SOS too, but she hides it better than he. A forbidden romance blooms.
At that point all the neat science fiction stuff is exhausted. The world is a lot like Gattaca, with the hard, clean, cold look and the genetic "enhancements," mixed with the ideology of The Giver. It's a world that allows this romance to thrive, and once the romance gets going it takes over, and the setting just becomes a background. I'm not against romance in sci-fi -- in fact I'm a fan of it, but the level of intense focus it gets here is less my thing. It wasn't so much about characters getting to know each other and falling in love so much as it was two characters discovering sensuality together. There was a lot of physical romance, but practically none that was intellectual.
|This is the kind of stuff I'd rather assume takes place rather than have to watch 10-15 minutes of.|
Nicholas Hoult I usually enjoy, and did here too. Early in the movie when he was being emotionless and robotic, I had a difficulty getting immersed. I was hyper aware of it all being a production, with actors acting. I only got pulled in once he is diagnosed -- because of the way aloof-Silas is affected by the bad news. It was subtle, and rang true. It always surprises me when I enjoy Kristen Stewart, but it happens more often than not. This is not my favorite movie with her, but she is well-cast in this part. Her stony gaze that visibly hides something boiling underneath is used to great effect here. Nia and Silas spend too much time cuddling and not enough time developing character, but they start off well enough that they're a worthy investment anyway.
In supporting roles are Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver. They both have smaller roles than you'd really expect out of people of their acting caliber, but hey, I'm not complaining. They weren't there enough to overshadow the youngsters, but also expanded the cast well so that the roles they took wouldn't be forgettable. Jacki Weaver is a master, and I'm always pleased to see Guy Pearce appear in movies.
|They definitely helped enhance the movie. Lent it credibility.|
The biggest source of disappointment for me with Equals was that the world was too small. A bigger budget, or more effort put into expanding the world to outside the city would have been appreciated by me. I wanted to see the contrast of that, the primitive red chaos with the pristine blue order, but the only glimpse we get of the outer world is in a piece of art. Near the end the story seemed to begin stalling for time anyway, and I'd have loved to have seen that time devoted to an anti-climax that features world-building again. Oh well.
One of the coolest things about the movie was the coloring. White and grey lit cool blue, with significant highlights of warm oranges and reds. And the warm colors seemed to signify or symbolize emotion. I believe it's introduced when we first notice signs of feeling in Nia, and later it is used more and more when characters give over to their emotions. That was fun to notice. Also style-wise, cinematography: I liked the close-up method, with the constant adjusting of focus and framing. Otherwise the filming was artsy and complementary to the cold world too, with modern framing and contrasts. But the handheld was often used with the elegant full shots too, and the shaking was distracting and out of place next to the modern architecture and just-so staging.
|Like our heroes are out of place in their world... but in a bad way.|
Things got dodgy there for a while and I worried that was wasting my time on another indie film that gets carried away from itself in directionless artistic endeavors, but in the end it was appropriately satisfying, and appropriately ambiguous. It's not particularly big, nor particularly meaningful, but Equals keeps its eye on what it wants to be -- a quietly passionate forbidden romance set against a cold scifi world -- and manages to stick with it til the end.