A ridiculous and short-sighted complaint about Drake Doremus' sci-fi romance Equals is that it's two gorgeous people trapped in a cycle of perpetual longing. Well, that's kind of the point. It's true that beautiful stars Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart, the Beast and Bella herself, do spend much of the film circling the love they are forbidden to have in the dystopian, sterile future Doremus has trapped them in, but it's exactly those cold conditions that ignite their passions.
Equals is in every sense a Drake Doremus movie. It follows in the footsteps of his previous efforts, romances Like Crazy and Breathe In; simple stories of maintaining love while life's complications get in the way. Equals expands on that in a significant way, throwing all of an emotionless society in the path of young lovers, Nia (Stewart) and Silas (Hoult). In this Oxy-Clean world of worker bees dressed in white, all human emotion has been switched off, creating a Collective full of equals.
Like the swooning extramarital affair of Breathe In and the long-distance longing of Like Crazy, the complication that arises in Equals is "S.O.S.", or Switched On Syndrome, in which certain people begin to actually feel. These people are usually so depressed by their surroundings they commit suicide soon after rather than undergo a treatment that dulls their emotions once again. Nia and Silas are two people who have been afflicted with S.O.S., her for a very long time hiding in plain sight, while it's a bit more recent for him. They begin to fall in love, not in some mad spurt of uncontrollable desire. There's fear there, too; these are people who have never even known human contact, have never known what it means to feel anything, much less an emotion as powerful as love. Doremus doles out their romantic encounters in small doses. It's a gradual progression beginning with clandestine meetings, seen in beautiful, glowing silhouettes. Doremus, along with Moon screenwriter Nathan Parker, aren't in any rush. We really shouldn't be, either.
The film doesn't go quite far enough in building this society, which includes a small band of rebels that includes Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver. There also aren't a ton of new ideas here; resembling a futuristic Romeo & Juliet in the most simplistic of terms. But being "new" isn't really the point, either. Visually and even thematically easy comparisons can be made to Logan's Run, Gattaca, and 1984. There's value in simplicity, and there's much that is expressed between Stewart and Hoult without having to say a single word. The story is predictable yet full of beauty and hope that love can blossom in a world designed to crush it.
Rating: 3 out of 5