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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - EQUALS

Two young lovers attempt to escape their emotionless, dystopian society.






Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Drake Doremus

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Jacki Weaver, Guy Pearce, Bel Powley



Drake Doremus' film is arguably more of a remake than many of the acknowledged remakes we've seen recently. Equals may owe more than a debt to and pay homage to some classic sci-fi movies, but it's by no means their equal.



Anyone familiar with the work of writer-director Drake Doremus knows he sure loves emotions; his 2013 romantic drama Breathe In is one of the most emotionally overwrought movies of recent years. No surprise then to find him tackling the subject of human emotion head-on, though few expected the indie darling to work in the realm of sci-fi.


In the post-apocalyptic, dystopian world of Equals, human emotion has been clinically suppressed. Occasionally, some do succumb to fuzzy feelings, known here as 'Switched On Syndrome'. One such 'victim' is Silas (Nicholas Hoult), who is surprised to find himself moved by a man's suicide at his workplace. While his co-workers (one of whom is played with deadpan brilliance by The Diary of a Teenage Girl star Bel Powley) merely ponder who might take the man's place, Silas sheds a secret tear.

Worried about his condition, Silas visits a doctor and is diagnosed with Stage One SOS. The promotional videos that play on the translucent screens (the most impractical of all sci-fi tropes) in his home and workplace reassure him that a cure will soon be discovered, but Silas resigns himself to the fact that he will reach a point where the only socially acceptable course of action is to take his own life. "Have you thought about killing yourself?", his boss inquires, as though asking Silas if he had tried the new pulled pork sub in the office canteen.


Silas soon finds he is not alone. A co-worker, Nia (Kristen Stewart), is a 'hider', having contracted SOS but keeping her condition to herself. Exploring their newfound emotions, Silas and Nia fall for each other, and set about making plans to escape the city.

It's difficult to recall a sci-fi movie as derivative as Equals - there's practically nothing fresh here. We have the suppression of emotion of George Lucas's THX 1138, along with that film's white on white visual aesthetic, with characters disappearing into indistinguishable backgrounds, while the concept of a young couple attempting to escape their fascistic city for an uncertain wasteland is straight out of Logan's Run. Doremus' film is arguably more of a remake than many of the acknowledged remakes we've seen recently.


Despite the lead casting of two of the most interesting young actors working today, Equals fails to draw us into its drama. Ironically, it's as cold as the dystopian society it portrays, glacially paced as it struggles to stretch its limited ideas to fill 100 minutes. Equals may owe more than a debt to and pay homage to some classic sci-fi movies, but it's by no means their equal.

Equals is available now on digital HD and is out on VOD & DVD on October 3rd.






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