SIFF 2016 Review: Equals

Equals (2016)

dir. Drake Doremus

written by: Drake Doremus, Nathan Parker

starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver


3.25 out of 4 stars

There is so much bad will heaped upon Kristen Stewart since her mistaken choice to blink heavily through five Twilight movies.  That ample paycheck aside, Stewart has been condoling for her cinematic crimes over the past few years.  Camp X-Ray was a surprise, Clouds of Sils Maria was a revelation, and even Adventureland and Into the Wild showed promise in retrospect.  Now with the impending boo-inducing Personal Shopper, we have ample Stewart upon which to ponder.  First, though my beloved A24 has prepared a speculative sci-fi romance for release.  With a surprising tonal shift, Like Crazy writer-director Drake Doremus teams with Moon scribe Nathan Parker for a story of star crossed lovers in a society opposing their union.  Fortunately there are no Romeo & Juliet family rivalries leading to multiple suicides of minors.  


Silas (Nicholas Hoult) is an illustrator for a highly admired entertainment company in an emotionless utopia.  Between structurally detailed drafts of interplanetary rovers, he fears the impending onset of the epidemic disease that leads the infected to experience all of the emotions found disruptive for public display.  Concerned about his eventual removal from society, Silas discovers his coworker Nia (Kristen Stewart) is experiencing the same fears, but she prefers hiding and dealing than seeking treatment.  To plan for their survival, irreversible decisions are contemplated.


Geometric dwellings with the gorgeous scenery of Tokyo and Singapore populate the city of beige and white garmented denizens.  Cinematographer John Guleserian explores the wide, sparsely decorated rooms with close up angles and vibrant changing lights.  His use of color and shadow during their dangerous encounters amplifies the surreal nature for this pair.  Filled with unexpected twists and a pleasing conclusion, the movie was a surprise.  The story threatened convulsion, and the two very recognizable leads seemed too distracting for science fiction.  Jennifer Lawrence was far too much JLaw over Katniss by the end of The Hunger Games.  How were they expecting Bella to be a believably emotionless robot that wasn’t just being Bella again. (Sorry, that’s my one biting remark at the unwatchable Twilight movie–the only movie to ever make me want to go to my library job hours early).


Kristen Stewart continues to please me in her roles.  I freaked out over Clouds of Sils Maria, and since then, I can’t help but to defend the actress.  No matter what is thought of the movie, Kristen Stewart was marvelous.  She mellowed Juliette Binoche’s character by such degree that Binoche almost seems hysterical in her otherwise strong performance.  Stewart steps into an assistant role and holds back the frustration in a manner as if she is playing Kristen Stewart after changing careers and dealing with an emotionally difficult actress for years.  The role was lived in and breathtakingly comfortable.  The role changed my reviews on her as a performer, and I cannot hold Twilight against her any more.  Robert Pattinson doesn’t get this shit nearly as much.


Now that is out of the way, Kristen Stewart provided a stoically powerful performance.  Not as emotionally vulnerable as Nicholas Hoult in their encounters, her hidden emotions in the workplace and in public struck me following the movie.  The resistance and focus needed to suppress emotions wears on the mind, and when she is able to release that pain, it is a natural pain expressed in her entire body.  Nicholas Hoult, where he manifests sadness in his eyes, his voice lacks the pained monotone in Stewart’s.  When together, the pair have seamless chemistry, separated the pace is more stagnant.  


Somewhat repetitive, Equals still contains intriguing world building and simplified structure for its emotionless utopia.  Not contrived and more realistic and human that expected, Doremus and Parker complement the other’s style which nicely mediates some of their less appealing qualities.  The build could have been abbreviated and allowed more time with Jacki Weaver and Guy Pearce, but the structure they delivered was heartier and more heartfelt than predicted.


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