Review: Equals (TIFF 2015)

Equals (TIFF 2015)
8 10

PLOT: In a Utopian future society where emotions are suppressed, two people (Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart) are infected with a disease that causes them to experience emotions such as love for the first time.

REVIEW: EQUALS is a highly absorbing work by director Drake Doremus. A Sundance darling, where his previous films LIKE CRAZY and BREATHE IN played to raves, Doremus extends his festival run to TIFF, where he bowed this unconventional but possibly very commercial romance, which has already sparked a bidding war among distributors.

Granted, the premise is familiar. With many shades of THX 1138 and 1984 throughout, one could label EQUALS as derivative were it not for the emphasis on romance, the hypnotic visuals and the absolutely astonishing work by leads Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart – neither of whom have arguably ever been better.

Given the nature of the film, Hoult and Stewart have to walk a fine line throughout. Early on, both have to virtually eliminate any kind of emotion from their performances without coming off as automatons. Hoult embraces a kind of passiveness that helps, while Stewart is more ambiguous, something which pays off later-on. Once the two become flooded with emotion, both convey the agony of this particularly well with Stewart's performance during the love scene ranking with any of the festival's best acting moments. Doremus's accomplishes a great deal by embracing subtlety, with a scene where Hoult caresses Stewart's check being one of the most erotic images in recent memory despite its innocence. It's the intimacy between the two which makes it so exciting to watch, and the two are superbly matched.

In addition to Stewart and Hoult, Doremus has enlisted several veterans, including his BREATHE-IN star Guy Pearce, who – along with Jacki Weaver – plays another sufferer of the disease that unleashes emotion. That Pearce and Weaver's characters try to help the young lovers winds up being a surprisingly optimistic take on human nature. THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL's Bel Powley also turns up as one of Hoult's colleagues, who manages to convey some hidden subtext with only a few quick looks (she may have the most expressive eyes in modern screen history).  

While an actor's showcase, Doremus has made a beautiful film, with lots of whites and cool blues lovingly shot by DP John Guleserian. It's worth noting that the two gorgeous stars have never looked better. The score is also superb, expertly mixing in classical music selections with the occasional blast of terrifically emotional modern music with infusions of synth and guitar which are striking compared to how the rest of the soundtrack is presented.

Hopefully, once EQUALS gets itself a distributor it'll get a solid theatrical release, as it's a movie that deserves to be appreciated on the big screen. It's rare that we get a sci-fi film that focuses on emotion and relationships rather than action and pyrotechnics. This is sophisticated, moody sci-fi in the grand tradition of the best genre outings of the seventies. Obviously it's a must-see.

Source: JoBlo.com



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