Equals full movie review - More Romance than Science Fiction
Forget what the critics have to say. Everyone's a critic these days. Here's the 411: Equals is really, really good. Surprisingly good. Maybe even great.
The first thing you need to know is that this is NOT a sci-fi movie. It's a romance in a sci-fi setting. The world is mostly just an interesting backdrop, a vehicle used to explore the burgeoning relationship between Silas and Nia. The world isn't the most original--Gattaca, Equilibrium, THX 1138, and others will probably spring to mind--but while Equals shares similar aesthetics and themes with other films, its approach to the material is unique. It does away with violence, action sequences, technobabble, and pretentious social commentary. The future society and technology are almost tertiary elements. This story is fundamentally about love, intimacy, and human connection. Equals is soft sci-fi at its softest and most emotionally driven. If you're down with that, you'll enjoy the film.
I recall reading a derogatory comment from a critic that this movie looks like a perfume commercial. And you know what? It does. In the best way possible. The visuals are beautiful and dreamy, especially as the film progresses and emotions heighten. Neon lighting creates backlit silhouettes, warm colors creep into cool blue hues, and close-ups of the actors catch every subtle emotion playing across their faces. The images really start to immerse you in a hazy, intimate atmosphere. It's like watching a nostalgic dream...or the greatest perfume commercial ever made, I guess.
Good chemistry is required to effectively sell a romance like this, and the chemistry between the leads is INSANE. Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart (aka Silas and Nia) spend a lot of time gazing at each other, touching each other, talking in hushed tones, and making out. On paper, that might sound treacly and annoying and reminiscent of bad YA fiction. Handled incorrectly, it could easily have come across that way. But here, it works. Director Drake Doremus knows what he's doing and the actors turn in honest performances. Hoult and Stewart exude some of the most electric on-screen chemistry that I've seen in a long time. Their scenes together spark, crackle, and burn. While never sexually graphic or gratuitous, the scenes between Nia and Silas are so genuinely raw and real that they manage to make you feel like you're watching something that you shouldn't be.
The score is also worth mentioning. It is ambient electronica bliss. Timeless and emotive, it complements the film perfectly. It performs a delicate balancing act; it sounds as though it belongs both to the cold, unemotional society the protagonists inhabit, and also to the warm, emotion-filled world of their love affair.
Kristen Stewart gets a lot of hate on the interwebz, but she is actually a compelling actress who shines in the right roles. She has idiosyncrasies, certainly--yes, she tends to touch her hair and she stammers sometimes--but her on-screen presence is one of a kind. I can't think of another young actress quite like her. She's enigmatic. She's magnetic. And she really pours her heart and soul into the role of Nia (as does Nicholas Hoult as Silas, but I personally found Nia's character arc more engaging).
Endings can make or break movies, and the ending of Equals completely makes it. The final minutes of this film are moving and unexpectedly resonant. On the surface, Equals is a Romeo & Juliet love story in a moody sci-fi setting, however, at its heart, it's about love and long-term commitments.
Equals is shamelessly romantic and without cynicism, and it reminds us why we put ourselves through the turmoil of intimate relationships. It reminds us why we are willing to get close to people despite the risk of losing them, willing to make ourselves vulnerable and open to being hurt, and willing to endure emotional pain, fear, and uncertainty.
We are willing because, cornball as it sounds, love makes life beautiful and worth living. "Just remember what this feels like," Nia pleads to Silas in one of the film's final scenes. It's a powerful moment, and essentially the film's thesis statement. Equals is about remembering what it feels like to fall in love and be in love; it's about recalling that heady, euphoric, terrified passion, and the transcendence of feeling truly connected to another person. The feelings are worth remembering, and Equals is a film worth watching.