What it is about the idea that in future dystopian societies, people tend toward sterility and the removal of emotion?
Such a question confounded me during much of the runtime of Equals, the latest film from Drake Doremus, who travels down remote indie frames. His breakout release, Like Crazy, which featured the late Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones as lovers separated by a senseless (and seemingly endless) bureaucratic snafu involving an expired visa, leapt off a great cliff into the deepest of waters, swimming ferociously against the complex emotional undertow.
Equals starts out with a society suppressing such desires, fashioning life into a minimalist proposition in order to maximize productivity and peace. But it is not long before Silas (Nicholas Hoult) notices first a twitch in the placid façade of Nia (Kristen Stewart) and then a clenched fist.
The latter is in response to the sight of a suicide victim and in no time he’s infected by a concern for her that mutates cancerously into love. In this world, a diagnosis of that kind is almost inalterably terminal, but there are those – like supporting standouts Jacki Weaver and Guy Pearce – who survive, either through treatment or by hiding their conditions.
You can’t hide love though, so Silas and Nia must decide how they will fight to hold onto that which afflicts them. Equals strictly adheres to a mood of oppressive sterility that threatens to squeeze the life out of the film. Yet Pearce serves as a beacon for the dueling equality of passion and serenity necessary for true survival, so he reminds us that a little craziness just might be what keeps us sane.
Equals, rated PG-13, opens July 22 at AMC Newport on the Levee. (Grade: C+)