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‘Equals’: In a bland but handsome future, all conceal their feels

Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in "Equals." | A24

Again with the dystopian society where everyone co-exists peacefully, but emotions have been wiped out and if you fall in love you’re risking your life?

“Equals” is a well-made, well-acted, visually arresting film that is so bland it will chip away at YOUR ability to feel anything. You admire the look and the performances, and some interesting ideas are presented, but everything feels muted and predictable and lacking in spark.

As is often the case with futuristic films, just about everyone in “Equals” dresses in monochromatic tones and lives in antiseptic dwellings and is a semi-willing participant in a drone society.

And of course we get a pulsating, electronic score that’s more invasive and annoying than helpful.

“Equals” is set in a post-apocalyptic future where much of the Earth is uninhabitable and the surviving population has established a nation ruled by “The Collective,” which has eradicated nearly all diseases but has also genetically engineered the species to feel almost no emotion.

There’s no falling in love. There’s not even any sex. The species is repopulated via artificial insemination.

It’s a Fun-Free Future.

If you DO start to feel something for someone, you’re diagnosed with “Switched on Syndrome,” aka SOS.

I know. Kinda hokey, right?

Getting tagged with SOS means you’ll be yanked from society and banished to the Peninsula, which is nothing like the upscale luxury hotel. It’s essentially a futuristic Alcatraz where you’ll likely be driven to kill yourself.

Now then. The few humans who DO feel emotions and manage to hide it from the Collective are known as, well, “Hiders.” But if the hiders are caught hiding — not good.

The talented young actor Nicholas Hoult (the boy in “About a Boy” who has grown up to roles in the “X-Men” movies, “Warm Bodies” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”) is Silas and Kristen Stewart is Nia. They’re co-workers employed by the Collective’s “Speculative Non-Fiction” branch, where they research and write about life on Earth back in the day.

Silas takes one look at Nia and he’s a goner. He clearly has SOS. Nia doth protest too much, saying she’ll report Silas if makes any kind of a move on her, but come on, we can see that look in her eyes.

Which brings us to “Romeo and Juliet,” forbidden-love territory.

Guy Pearce, who is developing a penchant for showing up in movies and making them better in limited screen time, shines as Jonas, a rogue who helps SOSer’s find their dreams and avoid persecution by the Collective.

Stewart bites her lip because that’s what she does in every movie, and she taps into her Melancholy Girl thing — but that doesn’t means she isn’t effective in her own way. Hoult’s muted work is about as far away from his “Fury Road” persona as one can get, but he has his moments as well.

They’re good actors mired in a gorgeously photographed but below-average thriller.


A24 presents a film directed by Drake Doremus and written by Nathan Parker. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for thematic content, sensuality, partial nudity and disturbing images). Available on demand and opening Friday at the Brew & View.