Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Guy Pearce
Genre: Romance/ Sci-Fi
In a futuristic world, there is no crime or war, as human emotions have been genetically eliminated. However, after contracting a mysterious disease, co-workers Silas (Hoult) and Nia (Stewart) find their emotions coming back, leading to a forbidden and passionate romance. However, as a permanent ‘cure’ is discovered for this disease, the two must choose between safety, or risking everything to escape and be together.
In concept alone, Equals offers very little new to an over populated genre; it is the so called ‘brave new world’ concept of a depleted future population that now thrives due to some genetic interference that prevents human emotion. Though it may star relatively big names, it is no surprise that Equals never got anywhere near any cinema screens and barely graced the DVD charts, as it is a difficult film to market; There is not enough proper romance to appeal to the Nicholas Sparks crowd, but not enough substance to appeal to the more cerebral audiences, plus the casting would put that crowd off.
Sometimes films like this can spring a surprise and become an underrated and undeservedly overlooked film, but sadly Equals is not such a film. Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been many, many films in 2016 that are far worse than Equals, and it is a solid and watchable film, but it its lack of focus or knowing what actual film it wants to be means it is no more than that. The cynic may say it tried to appeal to too many audiences at once, and in doing so ended up appealing to none; well, while watching Equals this unfortunately is the case as there is some serious potential here, but the film’s lack of clear focus means this remains solely as potential.
Both the initial world building and concept are a solid foundation for a good film; it may certainly lack an element of originality, but it allows for a very cerebral examination of what it means to actually be human. Though this is sometimes hinted at, the film never really goes anywhere near as deep enough as it should, likewise the actual world they live in needs further explanation and examination.
Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart also deliver solid performances that certainly are more deserving of both individual characters and a romance that are far more developed by the script and narrative.
There is nothing wrong with a romance between the two main characters driving the narrative, but the main problem with Equals is that the main narrative itself is shrouded in cliché and contrivance, and therefore predictability. Of course, utopia is actually dystopia, and so many elements of the plot can be predicted before they happen, taking away a lot of the potential emotional engagement. While supporting characters played by the likes of Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver are hideously underused.
Visually Equals is also a bit of a cliché, but the set design is effective at setting the mood and tone, as are John Guleserian’s clean and crisp cinematography, and Dustin O’Halloran & Sascha Ring’s suitably ambient score.
All these aesthetic elements are further proof of both the film’s initial potential and disappointingly bland and ill-focussed execution. As the narrative goes on to what is an inevitable and predictable final third, Equals does remain consistent, but unfortunately it is consistently watchable, but a genuine lack of realised potential from start to finish.
Though certainly nowhere near as bad a film as its financial return suggests, Equals is a film with a lot of potential, but despite this and two solid leading performances, the result of its lack of narrative focus unfortunately leaves it a generic, predictable and forgettable film.