You’d be forgiven for thinking that “Equals,” the new film starring Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult, was a zombie movie. Characters roam around aimlessly, mumble dialogue and stare at one another as though they’d like to take a bite out of one another.
But it’s not a zombie flick, it’s a high-concept sci-fi love against-all-odds story set in a utopian society where emotions don’t exist. IE, it’s 101 minutes of whispered words and blank stares.
“Equals” is takes place in a place where human emotions have been eradicated. It has resulted in a peaceful, if somewhat dull world. Like small town Ontario, everyone dresses the same and is unfailingly polite. The only disease they have been unable to remedy is S.O.S., a virus that eats away at their icy demeanours and restores their pleasure centers. In other words, it allows people to feel again. Illustrator Silas (Hoult) is infected with feelings, developing romantic thoughts for co-worker Nia (Stewart). She is also sick but undiagnosed. They begin an affair but when a cure is found their new-found feelings and romance are threatened.
Director Drake Doremus has set up an almost impossible situation for himself and his actors. Flat and unaffected, “Equals” is icy in the extreme. The only heat on display comes from several hand-holding sessions which, I suppose, are meant to melt the screen but honestly, there are Amish love stories with more sexual tension.
What could have been an exploration of the very core of what makes us human, a kind of star-crossed sci fi “Romeo and Juliet,” is instead a plodding look at two people experiencing late puberty.
It’s a shame, but perhaps not a surprise, that a movie that aims to sap the emotion out of most of its characters, is a bit of a slog.