I more or less randomly watched this movie on Netflix and was happy to discover that it was shot in Montreal and is full of beautiful images of the skyline and the mountain.
The film isn’t great—only a few minutes after watching it, the story is fading, and I don’t remember much from the performances—but scene after scene took place in recognizable places around town and it was great fun to location-spot: the Olympic stadium, the Lachine canal, Old Montreal, Parc Lafontaine and others were on display.
Seeing the city on screen, I suddenly realized how much of its beauty I’ve come to take for granted.
Equals is a Gattica rehash insofar as it uses mid-century (read: old fashioned) modernism to represent a medicalized and bureaucratic dystopian future. Here though, the architecture is more central (and beautiful) and the love story is between seemingly younger characters. (The apparent youthfulness of the protagonists is important in the final act which cleverly cribs the last act of Romeo and Juliette.)
Although there are specifics to the story—it’s a postbellum world in which emotion (and so war) has been eliminated—these details don’t really matter because this is a love story about the allegorical possibilities blankness. Blank walls. Blank faces. Blank narratives. As a result, the movie is self-consciously “about” anything you read into it. Sexuality. AIDS. Depression. ADHD. The psycho-sociology of illness. I’m not sure any of this is very interesting and suspect that to the extent any of it is, it’s because the topic (rather than the movie) is interesting and that the movie therefore serves as a useful example or object for discussion.
As I watched I was caught up primarily in the acting. Blankness is hard to perform in film because, at it’s base, convincing cinematic performance involves creating a mildly blank expression that can be read by the spectator through projection. Yes, there are big scenes and “Moments” where the screen actor plays large and loud and broadcasts a feeling. But most of the time, actors underplay and merely suggest. Making the blankness that they normally use to create an effect visible as the effect itself is clearly difficult, and in the first act, I didn’t find Hoult and Stewart very engaging or convincing. However, once they are allowed to become people, they bloom (beneath the still blank surface of their faces) and things pick up .
As a side-note, Kristen Stewart playing blank and emotionally dull looked like Kristen Stewart playing Bella from the Twilight movies. When suddenly she began to play a person in love and happy, it was like watching a completely different actor. Seeing this film has convinced me she’s a real talent. I’m actually looking forward to seeing her in other movies now.
This was the very best of the movies I saw as part of the blockbuster marathon.
The stakes here are clear and are established without tedious explication. The coherent but enigmatic world is a composite of moods and details built up with small touches across the two hours. Archetypes are evoked to great effect. (A high point are the people on stilts in the fog.)
Tom Hardy’s and Charlize Theron’s performances are wonderfully physical. Theron’s Furiosa has a psychology as layered as the film’s world. Easily as good a performance as her work in Snow White.
The story itself is straightforward, unapologetic, and without tricks. Characters’ motivations are clear and compelling. Trapped, a group of people try to escape to a better world, but when they get there, that world is no better than where they left. So they go back with the goal of remaking the world they knew. In the process, they bring the narrative full circle, a satisfying conclusion that here, unlike in so many of the other blockbusters (all of which quote early lines late in the film hoping to create the same effect), feels like storytelling rather than gimmickry .