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article imageReview: TIFF 2015 — ‘Equals’ portrays a future of first and only loves Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 21, 2015 in Entertainment
‘Equals’ is a satisfying science fiction romance that utilizes its lead actors’ natural talents to portray a future in which emotions are forbidden.
It’s not the first time a work of fiction has proposed the key to peace on Earth is the eradication of emotion. After all most violence is an act motivated by feeling, whether it’s passion, hate, revenge or some other sentiment. However, the flipside of that argument is that it’s our emotions that make us human; without them, what would people become? Equals is one of these narratives that explores life on both sides of the fence.
In the future, emotions are genetically removed at birth. But the procedure is imperfect and some people regain their ability to feel. In this case, they are advised to report for medical attention and provided inhibitors to help combat the symptoms. Eventually, however, when the sick can no longer control their responses, they are sent to the D.E.N. and never seen again. Silas (Nicholas Hoult) discovers he has stage one of the “disease;” but his awareness doesn’t prevent him from falling in love with Nia (Kristen Stewart), who convincingly conceals her degeneration from the world. The two begin a passionate and secret affair, but such fervour is not easily hidden amid such restraint.
It’s not often adults are shown to be so vehemently consumed with each other. However, the story dictates this is a first, all-consuming love intensified by the fact that there are no other fish in the sea. In addition to being attracted to one another, Silas and Nia have a unique connection that can’t be replicated with someone who’s permanently detached. Their fondness for one another is inspiring as they surrender to their ultimate need for intimacy and each other. Hoult and Stewart are excellent together, though audiences may find themselves gravitating more towards his inherent warmth.
The contribution of the aesthetic to the story is notable. The society in which they live is very sterile and white, from décor to clothing, with brief instances of beige and grey. Conversely, the areas in which the infected express their feelings are more colourful and organic: lavatories with green frosted glass; basements unaffected by the bareness beyond its doors; conservation forests; and even the otherwise frosty domiciles are illuminated with their presence. Their surroundings are a constant reminder of how unwelcome their emotions are in this environment.
Beyond the fittingly awkward chemistry Hoult and Stewart exhibit, they are each well-selected for their individual roles. Silas is only just discovering what it is to feel and is aided by finding people with similar inclinations; thus Hoult’s kind-heartedness and enthusiasm compliments his character fully. Conversely, Nia has been suppressing her emotions for so long that even showing them around Silas is initially difficult; an attribute Stewart portrays convincingly. Though Silas and Nia are often isolated, there is a supporting cast worthy of note. Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver play fellow feelers who become unwittingly involved in the survival of the pair’s relationship.
In spite of the Romeo and Juliet comparisons and some romance clichés, this is a fully enjoyable sci-fi love story that draws viewers in to caring about the welfare of this head-over-heels couple for whom all the odds are stacked against.
The film had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2015 coverage.
Director: Drake Doremus
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult and Guy Pearce
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