Love Movie


Junior (Paul Mescal) and Hen (Saoirse Ronan) are not a happy couple. The spark of their early love seems to have withered away in the harsh landscape of the near future. The year is 2065, our planet has been ruined, and people are looking to the sky as a way to survive. But to colonize space, the unholy match of government and private companies will first need an army to help build their new spaceship oasis. A stranger named Terrance (Aaron Pierre) arrives to recruit Junior, but not Hen, and given little time to enjoy their days together, the pair faces uncertainty about their relationship and future. Terrance offers them one bit of solace: there will be a flesh-and blood-clone of Junior here on Earth to keep Hen company once the real Junior leaves for space. 

If the premise of “Foe” sounds familiar, that’s because sci-fi has grappled with the idea of robots or artificial beings becoming too real since before Philip K. Dick’s monumental book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? From the replicants in “Blade Runner” (an adaptation of Dick’s novel) to the boy who yearned for his mother in “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” there’s no shortage of examples of looking for signs of life in man-made creations. However, “Foe” stumbles rather spectacularly by leaning more on melodrama than logic and choosing cliche over originality. Aside from rehashing tropes and offering some laughably bad moments, the film accomplishes little. 

Garth Davis (“Lion”) both directed “Foe” and co-wrote the screenplay with Iain Reid, the author of the source material, but something must have been lost on the way from the page to the screen. It’s as if the director doesn’t trust his audience to figure out the story, so not only must there be painfully obvious signs, he opens the movie explaining what’s happened. Now that I knew human-like artificial beings existed in this world, I assumed they’d appear at any moment, and well, I guessed correctly within the first few minutes of the movie. Removing the element of suspense in favor of easy answers takes away much of the story’s thrill.

Things do not improve from there. Mescal and Ronan give this film their all, but it’s almost too much. Davis doesn’t seem to realize that languishing his camera on their pained expressions makes scenes feel overwrought and accidentally comical. It’s almost a challenge not to laugh when these awkward close-ups are coupled with dialogue like, “You’re going to hell! This can never be forgiven!” Take, for instance, a close-up of Ronan as she’s trying to pull her face into a smile. She tries repeatedly, but Davis doesn’t cut or allow her the cry her character so badly needs. She just keeps stretching her face into a pained smile like the Joker. This is supposed to be a sad scene, not a descent into madness, but its emotions are mishandled to the point of a punchline. 

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