Equals is a beautifully shot film (locations in hyper-modern Singapore and Japan) and is the latest riff on a favorite sci-fi theme: Can Big Brother suppress true human nature? We’ve explored this theme before – think of George Lucas’ bleak THX 1138 or Gattaca or any episode of Star Trek when the crew has a laugh at the emotionless Vulcan, Mr. Spock, and more recently the wonderful British TV series, Humans.
The world of Equals is a post-apocalyptic Utopia where everyone looks like they’re in white Armani summerwear wandering around the world’s biggest, strictest, emptiest Apple store. Hoult plays Silas, an illustrator, while Stewart is his co-worker Nia, a writer, for some propaganda magazine where the team collaborates like a silent room of white mannequins (did I mention that the future is very white?)
In this world, love is forbidden. Physical contact is forbidden. Emotion is a disease called SOS. If you’re diagnosed with SOS, you are medicated and eventually euthanized.
Silas begins his emotional awakening after seeing a suicide – a jumper. He soon begins a dangerous affair with Nia.
There are some not too subtle subversive messages in Equals about control and messaging. It’s an interesting future where no one has cell phones so people resort to whispers and clandestine meetings. But the film doesn’t break any new ground in this genre.
Hoult continues to show off his versatility (check out his other indie release this year, Kill Your Friends). Equals is an acting challenge to begin emotionless and to journey into a downward spiral. Hoult is angular precision at the beginning and it’s a subtle performance at how he’s triggered by the SOS break-downs around him.
On the other hand, Stewart always manages to look annoyed and irritated, though she too takes that journey into emotional-meltdown-town. (It just seems that it’s a shorter journey for her!) It’s a credit to both actors that they begin the film with seemingly zero chemistry and turn up the heat into a futuristic, wreckless Romeo & Juliet.
Director Drake Doremus (Like Crazy) loves his two leads – Equals often feels like a high fashion commercial that spends a lot of time on his stars’ cheekbones and eyebrows – the give-away twitching is a dead give-away of emotional awakening! It’s a beautiful and well-executed film, and fans of the leads should be impressed by the intelligent and measured performances.
Equals is in limited release and on VOD.
SEE THE OFFICIAL TRAILER BELOW.
About the reviewer: Harrison Cheung is the award-winning author of the Christian Bale biography, THE INSIDE STORY OF THE DARKEST BATMAN. Learn more at bale-biography.com