Disclaimer: This is a review, and as such will contain opinions, spoilers and (often) general shit talking. (If you talk about what you don’t like about a work, you learn a lot. When you think through a work with the stakes presented to you by the creator, by the context of the work, you learn a lot. I review things, not because I love to dislike things, but because dislike contains rich and vital information for the process of experiencing something, but I cannot access it without interrogating it.) So, if you don’t want to have this thing spoiled for you, or don’t know how to behave when a person on the internet, that you don’t know, has opinions that don’t line up with yours, this review is not for you. It’s also not for the author/creator of the work. Please and thank you.

Foe from director Garth Davis heavily relies on the dust bowl vibes and overcomplicates what could have been a beautifully simple story.

In the near-ish future, couple Junior (Paul Mescal) and Henrietta (Saoirse Ronan) find themselves and their marriage in an existential crisis as severe as the environment around them. They seem to be clinging to what’s left of “the old ways” in their remote, inherited farmhouse, denouncing the modernities of technology and living in space in favour of waiting for the rain to return.

One night, a stranger appears. Terrence (Aaron Pierre) is a government suit who comes with tough news; Junior has been chosen to go live and work on an off-planet space community. While he’s away, he’ll be replaced with a Human Substitute, an AI with the capacity for consciousness, so that his marriage doesn’t fall apart due to his absence.

We watch as Junior and Hen settle into this new reality, aware that his departure is imminent.

I think the movie was overwritten (less is more, even when it comes to lots of despairing and a showing a desolate existence), and it feels like they were afraid to let the core story stand on itself, so they added in a lot of filler to hammer home the point that this is, indeed, a sci-fi.

Be warned: this is a very slow film with a very long build-up, and the end is over before you know it and you’re left to think about how you feel about what you just saw. The suspense flickers in and out, most of the time is filled with us following the two main characters around, their interactions, their (wooden) dialogue, their discomfort with each other.

It almost feels like you’ve moved into the house with the two of them and have to watch the situation unfold in real time rather than in an effective narrative.

I think why this film got really low reviews across the board was because the sci-fi elements are very clunky. And mostly unnecessary.

In comparison to other great sci-fi works, this falls short.

But if we let go of the sci-fi part of it, it’s a good story (even if the way it’s told is lacking).

Like I said, the core story would have very easily stood on its own in a dystopian world without all the embellishments.

The final twist is what makes the entire rest of the film make sense.

And, like a good twist, it makes you question and revisit everything you’ve just seen. Possibly even makes you watch the film again, just to see all those off-kilter moments again in a new light.

Don’t expect an easy blockbuster.

The film is quiet and slow, the suspense building patchily, but building nonetheless. It’s more interested in exploring the relationships we build.

This is a film about the human experience in this parched world, which represents the death of nature as much as it represents the death of the self, the death of a relationship and the death of hopes and dreams.

It (clumsily) looks at how the choices you make can have unexpected and far-reaching consequences.

It’s an exploration about how to make yourself whole again, even when you have scars that won’t fade, or wounds that won’t close.

The entire film is carried by Mescal and Ronan who both give captivating performances (go Ireland!).

Hen’s raw nerves and desperate longing as she grieves for a self and a life that feels lost to her is beautiful. It culminates in her relationship with her piano, which gives her a very haunting vibe.

Junior feels completely different in the beginning and at the end, which I love. It would have been an easy way out to play it the same way, but Mescal has the confidence to make a clear delineation that helps to solidify and drive home the ending.

Despite all the shortcomings, I’ll be recommending this movie to anyone who likes a more cerebral take on a dystopian existence.

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