Director Drake Doremus’ delicate palate has ably brought forth some of todays finest actors in affecting love stories such as Like, Crazy, dealing with the insights of relationships, the love created from them and the loss that occasionally spawns. And with the aid of his young talent, in this instance Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, the powers of realism are shown with dramatic force. His stories are grounded and real and relatable to such pain.
In Equals, however, Doremus delves into science fiction. Pairing again two of todays most sought after talents, Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart, the film takes place in an emotionless dystopia where the inhabitants of a society named The Collective have been genetically modified between conception and birth to be emotion free, and in turn, emotions, love and sex have been outlawed.
Hoult stars as Silas, an illustrator in The Collective whose mysterious feelings towards Nia (Stewart) have him diagnosed and afflicted with “Switched-On-Syndrome”. Coming to terms with his new condition, Nia, a fiction writer, also succumbs to such feelings, and the pair attempt to hide their new found attraction amidst a world where any slight difference is noted to catastrophic proportions.
A post-apocalyptic, dystopian world with a society deprived of something that would outright glorify a free world in hope of creating a perfect Utopia. The plot is barely unheard of. Mix in a love story that has two individuals banned of their feelings, also unheard of. Romeo and Juliet this is not, but you’d be forgiven in feeling like Equals has a sense of “been there, done that” throughout its entire duration. Doremus’ usual originality feels absent, and writer Nathan Parker’s terrific writing that spawned Moon into one of 2009’s best films is sorely missed. The biggest feat here is that it’s vastly uninspired for such a high-concept love story, though it can’t be the easiest of projects to portray great love in a world where anything of the sort is prohibited. Luckily, this director has a few tricks up his sleeve.
A greatest asset to have is seeing sparks between your stars. Yelchin and Jones stunned and again in Breathe In Jones and Guy Pearce proved a sizzling duo. Firm favourites of both Hoult and Stewart will undoubtedly revel in the opportunity to see both paired here. For the most, Doremus highlights a romantic intrigue between the two that appears and feels authentic. Stewart’s ditched traits that grew heavily tiresome in the franchise that created her career and has grown into a fine young actress, whereas Hoult’s transformation from chubby youngster to handsome leading actor is astounding. Here, with little-to-no dialogue, they fit. Through glares of concentrated intensity and quiet moments alone that have the two igniting as a regular couple, Equals thrives on the importance of its stars.
As dialogue is sparse, composers Dustin O’Halloran and Sascha Ring move in as an inanimate character. Wholesome chimes and an overall poignant score highlights emotions that are physically absent, boosting an unoriginal dystopian world with a collection of electronic tones that constitute a loss in a tonally wavering futuristic state.
There’s very little in the sense of originality which hinders Equals as this society is so perplexingly bleak and serious that narratively Doremus’ has hit a dud. Where it thrives is between everything else; two rising stars that are rightfully paired amidst a love story that’s beautifully shot and scored.
Dir: Drake Doremus
Scr: Drake Doremus, Nathan Parker
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Guy Pearce, Bel Powley, Jacki Weaver
Prd: Chip Diggins, Michael A. Pruss, Ann Ruark, Michael Schaefer, Jay Stern
Music: Dustin O’Halloran, Sascha Ring
DOP: Jay Guleserian
Runtime: 101 minutes
Equals is available on DVD now.