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Shining A Light On: Equals

Article By: Alice-Ginevra Micheli


Between the thousands of movies released each year reside the forgotten ones, films of quality who may never see the light again. In this column I will attempt to find some of these hidden gems and explain why they deserve their day in the sun.


Movie: Equals

Release Date: July 15 2016

Worldwide Box Office: $2 million


This is probably one of the more controversial picks I’ll have for this column. Normally, I would go about choosing a film that is widely acclaimed yet somehow forgotten. However, this month I have decided to highlight one that was forgotten and, in my opinion, misjudged.

The film is Equals, directed by Drake Doremus; it tells the story of two young people who fall in love, played by Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart. However, they live in a society where emotions have been eradicated, and those who experience them are considered diseased and a danger to the community. It’s tension filled in every sense of the term, whether from the fear of being found out or the chemistry shared by the two young stars, and leads the audience on a very simple but powerful story.

Before I get any further, I want to comment on one of the first thoughts people might have when they hear the premise and then find out about the afore mentioned female co-star. Yes, Kristen Stewart has been cast in a role of a girl who seemingly has no emotion (‘clearly the role was written for her!’). However, I actually believe this is some of her best work. While the society itself is stoic, this film wrestles with one of the most difficult actions a person can take, masking their emotions, especially if in an intense moment of feeling. Not supported by copious amounts of dialogue, it’s up to the actors’ ability to carry the story, and keep it interesting. Stewart brings all this and more to the role. She utilizes small expression and struggled pauses to evoke the sense of uneasiness surrounding her character as she battles with her unwanted emotion.

Hoult is also a great cast, as he leads the film and helps introduce the audience to this dystopian world. A great character actor, it was interesting to see him portray a conflicted and romantic character who is fighting with who he is and who he is expected to be.

As mentioned, the chemistry between the two actors is palpable as they make it easy to care for these two characters and worry about what would happen to them, should they be found out.

Another element, which should also be mentioned, is the transcendent score, helmed by Dustin O’Halloran. Magical in its ability to evoke tone and sensation, even in the quiet moments, it does a great job framing the action on screen, giving a strong sense of place and identity for the characters, and for the audience.

Doremus, the director of acclaimed film Like Crazy, brings the same melancholy tone here. There’s a distinct feeling of yearning and desire that permeates different events, as this world of nothing is explored. In fact, it’s the balancing of this complicated and interesting concept that is the hero of this film. It would be easy to coast along and have turned it into an incredibly boring ordeal, where the lack of emotion hinders any ability to relate to what’s happening on screen. However, the way in which this idea is handled is in a masterful manner. As an audience member you find yourself often questioning who you are, and what you would be without the fundamental ability to feel. On the other hand, questions about whether the removal of them would be more beneficial in a move toward an efficient society are also raised. It’s the type of movie that remains with you long after it’s ended, mulling over the characters, world and moral questions left lingering on your mind. The best thing I can ascribe it to, is the popular anthology Black Mirror, where each episode is meant to make you think, as well as feel uneasy toward the possibility of this altered reality.

The film does at times move at a slower pace than desired, and the love story at its center could come off as sappy and unrealistic to some who watch it. It’s definitely unique in what it’s presenting and how, and there are those who would find themselves becoming frustrated as they wait for more exciting events to transpire on their screen. It should also be noted that the general reaction from critics was mixed, and therefore it’s important to be aware of the fact that it’s certainly polarizing in both its execution and story beats.

Overall, I believe Equals is an experience of philosophy, feeling and change that not many films have achieved, especially when tackling a high concept, as this one does. It’s a gentle, simple story that will encompass its viewer, sucking them into the story to the point that it won’t leave their brain for days on end. It’s a bit out there, a bit weird and slightly strange, but it should be watched, especially if you’re someone who’s willing to open your mind and try something innovative in its design and execution.

Alice Ginevra Micheli
Her love of film, novels and all things media led her to study Screen and Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. Fascinated with the culture of entertainment today she keeps up to date on all the news and going-ons within the industry. When not traversing the internet and cinemas, she spends her time catching up on whatever TV or book series she's currently obsessed with.

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