Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Movie Review: EQUALS

Set in a dystopian future where emotions have been suppressed in the same measure as all other diseases, Equals follows the stories of Silas (Nicholas Hoult), an illustrator, and Nia (Kristen Stewart), a writer and coworker. They discover that each of them is affected by what is called SOS, a disease by which you regain your emotions. They secretly fall in love and have to cope together and figure out what to do in a world that would otherwise discriminate and incarcerate them.

Writer and director Drake Doremus is the main reason to be interested in this film since he always brings to the table something noteworthy, both cinematically and emotionally, and in best case scenarios he gives us brilliantly unique pieces such as Like Crazy. Equals doesn't quite live up to either its filmmakers nor its premise because of a thematic dryness, yet it still bears a unique and occasionally touching voice that makes it worthy a what might be a heavy handed yet enjoyable watch.

Right off the bat, what is absolutely striking is the way in which Doremus and his visual team manage to make this world appear, especially looking at such a low budget. Other than the fact that they convey a lot visually thanks to smart design choices, with videos explaining the world in the background in a way that almost always feels coherent, what is even more remarkable is the beauty and scale of it all and how it effectively reflects on the characters. Contrary to many dystopian pictures of recent times, I didn't find myself putting into discussion this world but rather being sucked into it and understanding its logic.

Unfortunately the script does take one too many wild turns, especially retracing "Romeo and Juliet" in a way that feels totally forced and unnecessary, bringing down the whole film with a third act that totally misses the point. The plot explodes in too many directions and whilst you never loose sight of the world you're in, the story just doesn't manage to get at a point where any kind of statement or thematic subtext manage to emerge. The characters stop feeling genuine and it all just becomes a plot mess.

On the other hand the style implemented in the cinematography is something really pleasant. The visual grammar established might be a little too on the nose, but for the majority of the film it works brilliantly in bringing to life the contrast of thought and emotion with total emptiness and the ways in which you get to experience and get close to the characters are truly effective and surprising. The sensual moments are most definitely the highlight of the film and bring you into the drama in a very powerful way. They are also the highlights of the performances from both leads who give good performances, in contrast to the majority of their costars who admittedly aren't given too much to do and don't shine in their roles. Not even the great Guy Pearce walks away with anything worthy of note, sadly.

Going back to the thematic content of the film I believe that is where the problem lies. I think that the similarities to Like Crazy are a little too obvious and they don't need to be there. What is a masterfully crafted film on a technical side is severely undermined by a total absence of anything consistent to say or prove in the third act and in a film where everything is setup to be commentary to society, the failure to conclude anything about it is unfortunately the film's curse.

Still, Equals proves to be one of the more worthy dystopian films of recent years, especially because of the way it manages to set up and transport you in its world, even if the pay off will almost prove to be absent.

James's Score: 6/10

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