Directed by: Drake Doremus | 98 minutes | drama, romance, science fiction | Actors: Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart, Jacki Weaver, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hazlewood, Bel Powley, David Selby, Aurora Perrineau, Nathan Parker, Tom Stokes, Mook Denton, Teo Yoo, Kai Lennox, Rizwan Manji, Umali Thilakarathna, Anthony Alex Gilmore
It’s not easy being Kristen Stewart. She has already expressed several times that she hates the fame that comes with her movie star status. Born to parents who work in the film industry – her father John is a stage manager and television producer and her Australian mother Jules earns a living as a script supervisor and directed her first film, ‘K-11’ in 2012, there was a good chance that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. However, Kristen had always thought of working behind the scenes, not before. “I didn’t like being the center of attention at all.” Yet she was discovered at an early age and starred in a major Hollywood production at the age of 12 (‘Panic Room’, 2002, with Jodie Foster). In her teens she made quite a few movies, but to say that she couldn’t walk normally anymore… That changed drastically when in 2008 she got the lead role of Bella Swan in the hugely popular ‘Twilight Saga’. Suddenly everyone wanted something from her, her love life was unraveled by the tabloids and there were tons of criticisms of her one-sided acting style.
And so La Stewart, after she could finally ditch the role of Bella after five ‘Twilight’ films and got behind the commercially successful but critically smashed ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ (2012), on small-scale independent films such as ‘On the Road’ (2012), ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ (2014) and ‘Still Alice’ (2014), hoping to demonstrate that she can act and is more than that wronged girl with that angry look. And while the magazines and the internet are still talking more about her love life than her acting talent, it seems she’s on the right track. For her role in ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ she even earned a César (French equivalent of the Oscars) for best supporting actress. It had been 11 years since an American actor received that honor (then it was Adrien Brody for ‘The Pianist’, 2003).
‘Equals’ (2015) is in line with Stewart’s current approach. A romantic science-fiction drama from director and writer Drake Doremus (‘Breathe In’, 2013), the film is set in a future society called ‘The Collective’. In this dystopian setting, people are completely numb: they don’t know emotions (or at least aren’t allowed to show them to their environment). What it feels like to be happy, sad, angry, in love, jealous or happy, they have no idea (so it already seems to be the perfect film for La Stewart; after all, her critics claim that she is always without any form. of emotion). The Equals, as people in this world are called, live on autopilot and live purely to work. However, a new disease threatens to throw a spanner in the works. It activates everything the Equals thought they could escape: depression, sensitivity, fear and love. If Silas (Nicholas Hoult) is also infected, he becomes an outcast. But there is one person who understands him. Nia (Kristen Stewart) has feelings, but manages to keep them hidden. When Silas confronts her, a strong bond develops between the two. For the first time in their lives they feel love and intimacy, but the only way to survive is to escape.
A world where everyone lives in their own cocoon, no interpersonal contact is allowed, every day passes according to the same unbreakable pattern and every form of pleasure is forbidden; even for an increasingly individualistic society like ours, this must be hell on earth. Director Drake Doremus immersed his chilly, futuristic world in a striking play of colors with lots of white (clothing, decor), against a background of turquoise and here and there orange. Stylish, but not unique (sci-fi classic ‘THX 1138’ (1971) is our first association, but there are many more films that ‘Equals’ has common ground with from a stylistic point of view). In combination with the atmospheric, ambient-like soundtrack, the picture is just right. Doremus manages to analyze the concept of simplicity to the core, not only in the story but also in the interaction between his two protagonists, who approach each other in a very modest way.
The main asset of ‘Equals’ is that burgeoning power of love between Silas and Nia, and especially how heartbreaking it is that they have to suppress those scorching feelings. Stewart and especially Hoult know how to portray this in a striking way. We’ve seen impossible love on the silver screen before, of course, and ‘Equals’ draws remarkable parallels with the classic love story of Romeo & Juliet. It can go two ways with this film: if you go along with the intensity of the love between Silas and Nia, then this is a beautiful, overwhelming film experience. If you don’t like this unoriginal and painfully slow-moving modesty, you will undoubtedly be disturbed by everything.