Sometimes films get a run they don’t deserve and fell prey to scathing reviews. Equals would be one such example as it had a run on the festival circuit but after some less-than-impressed reviews it did not get the run it should’ve had. Thanks to the magic of Twitter Drake Doremus’ feature had a quiet corner making noise in it’s praise, which gave me intrigue into checking this film out. And it has to be said, Equals could be one of the better largely-unnoticed films I have encountered.
Equals is set in what seems to be quite an Orwellian futuristic landscape where the world is without war and suffering thanks to the human race being devoid of emotions. What initially seems to be sold as a utopian society, is quickly realised to be quite a dystopian future look on the world.
Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart are placed at the centre of this film and their chemistry on screen is one of the greatest delights about this film. Silas (Nicholas Hoult) works interpreting Nia’s (Kristen Stewart) words in the form of colourful illustrations, when the rest of the world is devoid of colour.
Usually with dystopian films of this nature where the world is without emotion, everyone is drone-like and moves in the same way. Equals moves in a different way, as we see the humans dart around, some with a sense of purpose, instead of moving single file. They even have Silas bump into other Citizens, as he tries to find his place in this world.
Instead of focusing on this emotionless structure of the dystopian world, Doremus chooses to observe the emotions passed between Silas and Nia, which becomes key throughout this film. His choice to shoot these emotions in a handheld style accentuates the discreet emotions exhibited by the dynamic duo.
As their stories become entwined, the story bears on and it’s worth noting that the opening sections are slow and plod through the opening fifteen or so minutes. This is expected, but as the story picks up it’s pace, the film matches the pace as it picks up smatterings of the love-struck lovers in Romeo and Juliet.
This is all down to the perfect casting of Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult and their subtle facial expressions throughout. This mixed with their tendencies to show discreet emotions works superbly within Equals. As I said, Doremus employed the use of shooting the film via the means of handheld really perfects the intimate, precious scenes between Silas and Nia.
Their curiosity becomes really vivid as they discover these emotions together during their after-hour stays in the bathroom, all the while creating some tense scenes. Due to this shooting choice and the genuine performances by Hoult and Stewart, a lasting connection forms between the two and it reverberates off the screen. So much so, as the film enters into the latter half, the story began to fill me with angst and worry as the narrative pressed on.
This latter half takes on a somewhat surprising turn, which left me guessing as to what was going to happen in regards to Silas and Nia. This was all played out to perfection on screen and left me reeling. This comes down to the excellent way in which the story plays out throughout the picture and this is all but helped by the shades of Romeo and Juliet.
Now with a dystopian tale such as this, it would have been easy for Doremus to focus on the two central figures either escaping the confines of ‘The Collective’ or bringing down the tyranny. Instead Doremus focuses on Silas and Nia’s relationship as they discover emotions for the first time. I cannot give Doremus enough praise as Equals was just an absolute joy to watch and left me reeling throughout the story which doesn’t happen often.
This is all but helped on by the fantastic casting and acting by Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult throughout the hour and a half runtime. His choice to focus on the characters rather than the state of the world was the absolute key to this story working so well and their delicate but precise interactions with each other made the film even greater. If anything, I would implore everybody to watch this film as it deserves more viewings than it’s festival run.