This is a capsule review. A full review will be posted closer to release.
With its monochrome sci-fi setting and central metaphor that’s unwieldy enough to choke a python, you’d expect Equals to have either high energy action, or a knotty plot as the reason to visit this frighteningly familiar dystopia (here: Equilibrium as designed by IKEA and Apple). But the latest film from Like Crazy director Drake Doremus offers no such physical or mental gymnastics, and instead attempts to wow you with something much simpler.
It’s a tale as old as time (“1984,” if you need a specific time): boy meets girl, they fall in love, and now life in their controlled society – one based on total emotional repression – has just become a lot more complicated. Given the well-worn territory, it’s smart that Nathan Parker’s script doesn’t worry too much about the macro or micro workings of The Collective, the last livable scrap of a post-calamity Earth. Instead, it’s the romance between two fledgling feelers at the story’s centre, Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart), that’s the real hook.
The occasional bit of dry or black humor is all that livens up Equals while operating at a purposefully low hum 90% of the time. It’s a straightforward lovers-in-a-dangerous-future-time story punctuated by moments of remarkable collaboration between Doremus, his leads, and the rest of the production. Often shot against soft neons to Sascha Ring and Dustin O’Halloran’s mesmerizing soundtrack, the key turning points in Silas and Nia’s relationship convey the frightening and life-sustaining power of human contact in a world that’s become one endless interface. Though the rest of Equals is just attractively dreary, these scenes register with an intensity that can only be felt after being deprived of sensation for so long.
Equals may lack for inspired construction and razor-sharp plotting, but achieves moments of tactile sensuality that are rare for its genre.