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Kristen Stewart shines in the sci-fi love story “Equals”

equals kristen stewart
Slowly but surely, Kristen Stewart has been becoming one of our most interesting young actresses. At the same time, filmmaker Drake Doremus has been crafting some under the radar yet memorable work, namely with Like Crazy and Breathe In. Now, they’ve come together for Equals, a science fiction romance opening this weekend that’s really quite interesting. I saw the movie back at the Tribeca Film Festival and found it very compelling, especially for Stewart’s turn, as well as in regards to Doremus as an evolving director. Stewart also has Woody Allen’s new film Cafe Society hitting this week, and I’ll continue my praise of that one in a few days, but today I’m focused on Doremus’ project with her.

The flick is in some ways a sci-fi/dystopian take on Romeo and Juliet. It follows Silas (Nicholas Hoult) as he navigates a supposed “utopia” where emotion has been removed from society. It’s labeled as an infection and something to be cleansed from your being. When he meets Nia (Kristen Stewart), the effects of a mysterious disease kick in and they fall in love, regaining emotions. That puts their lives in danger, as the world obviously doesn’t want them to be together. Doremus directs and co-wrote with Nathan Parker here. The supporting cast includes Guy Pearce, Aurora Perrineau, Bel Powley, Kate Lyn Sheil, Jackie Weaver, and more. Cinematography is by John Guleserian, while the score is from the duo of Dustin O’Halloran and Sascha Ring. They all work together to fulfill Doremus’ vision of this particular future.

Without question, Stewart is the highlight here. I’m also fond of the production design and Doremus’ direction, but she really sells you on the premise with her performance. That isn’t to say that Hoult isn’t good, because he is, but she is what drew me in. Doremus and his team create a compelling world, but a lot of it requires mood to work, and Stewart provides that in spades. It’s not a perfect film, with a pace that might very well challenge impatient audience members, but I think it’s well worth it. I’d love to see this filmmaker/actress duo work again together, as they’ve got a strong connection for sure.

In terms of awards, I suspect Equals will be too small for real contention, but there’s always the chance that it gets some momentum. Depending on how the more independent minded precursors see it, that’s where the film could play, but I’ll list the Oscar categories, regardless. If the movie catches on anywhere, look for a possible small campaign in Best Picture, Best Director (for Doremus), Best Actor (for Hoult), Best Actress (for Stewart), Best Original Screenplay (for Parker), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. It’s probably Stewart or bust for the flick though, and bust might be the safer bet. Anything can happen though, obviously. The likely outcome is that, if anything, this helps her with a potential Cafe Society campaign.

Overall, this week brings a pair of excellent Stewart performances in Equals and Cafe Society. The latter will be discussed before the end of the week, so look forward to that, but today was a time to give the former some love, as it’s the smaller of the two. This is definitely not going to be for everyone, as it’s a very indie take on genre, but if you enjoy Romeo and Juliet type love stories, there’s plenty to like here. Stewart shines, as she often does, while Doremus continues to give us compelling and challenging cinema. Give it a look and see what you think…

Be sure to check out Equals, opening in limited release this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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