EQUALS centers on Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and his highly aesthetic, utilitarian future where all his furniture slides out of the wall and all his meals are delivered. It looks and sounds like he lives in an iPhone surrounded by sunlight and lush forests. Silas has a full-time gig as a speculative non-fiction illustrator—something his co-worker Rachel (Bel Powley) reminds him about with increasingly comedic effect—and his Photoshop interface is off the hook.
The downside to Silas’ iPhone future is that it subtly encourages suicide to anyone who begins to experience 1) emotions or 2) feelings of gender. Okay, that’s not so great, iPhone future. Cursed with both frowned-upon traits, Silas and his other coworker Nia (Kristen Stewart) secretly meet in the bathroom to breathe on each other a lot. The camera artfully explores their beautiful faces and pained expressions. The music swells.
Over the past half decade, Drake Doremus has developed a reputation as a director who takes somewhat tired narrative plots and reinvigorates them: Like Crazy (2011) explored college student lovers separated by visa problems (you poor things), and Breathe In (2013) took that older-married-man-is-seduced-by-a-teenage-foreign-exchange-student fantasy that older married men have and humanized it. (Thanks?) Both films received acclaim for Doremus’ highly-improvised approach: He’s all about emotion, and while he doesn’t even storyboard, his films always turn out beautifully.
With Equals, Doremus has done that again: All of the film’s pieces—the artful use of focus, the ambient score, the attention paid to the supporting cast—click together wonderfully. I loved it to the extent that I wonder if Doremus has worked his romance magic on me. One day, I’d like to see him take on a more interesting story—but for now, he’s got my attention.