Equals

Last Sunday, I watched Equals with Yun Rong and Cheryl at Shaw Lido.

We decided to watch it after seeing the trailer played around Orchard Road. There didn’t seem to be much marketing done for it, as we hadn’t seen YouTube ads or anything. It was a stroke of luck that we all happened to see the trailer. We initially wanted to watch it after Pink Dot, but it didn’t work out and we met up the next day instead.

Equals is a beautiful film. The cinematography is great – a lot of minimalism, very indie/hipster film-ish framing of shots, and great use of colour to illustrate emotions and shifts in atmosphere. The music is fitting, too – the score reminded me of Arcade Fire’s work in Spike Jonze’s Her. Oh, and the clothes! The minimalist, futuristic costumes were so appropriate for the dystopian world. They gave off pretty strong COS vibes.

A few minutes into the film, we had a moment – local DJ and actress Vernetta Lopez appeared! That was cool. They used a lot of Singaporean scenery in the film too – I’d say about 70%! Local landmarks Marina Barrage and Henderson Waves made many appearances.

The acting is great, too. I’ve been a fan of Kristen Stewart since Panic Room and, subsequently, Twilight (I got swept up in the hype, okay? I’ll admit, I was a Twihard…).  Nicholas Hoult was the star of Warm Bodies – I didn’t watch it but I’ve seen enough gifsets on Tumblr to like it. He’s also Beast in X-Men! They both put in amazing performances in Equals – their chemistry is built up really well, and the conflicts inflicted upon them by the film’s circumstances reflect within their relationship as well, in a very believable manner.

Speaking of the movie – I haven’t watched many sci-fi movies, so I really can’t compare, but I thought the story was a good effort. As far as first impressions go, the storyline reminds me of Gattaca. It’s basically a dystopian Romeo & Juliet. The film spent its first half world-building and establishing the characters, which helped with understanding the second half. The story revolves around Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart), two individuals living in a future devoid of emotion. They are governed by an entity called The Collective, and apparently humanity as we know it now was nearly extinguished by nuclear war. As a result, the people in the future have genetically removed emotions, as they believe it to be the cause for all the unrest in the past. Emotions are seen as a disease (S.O.S., short for Switched On Syndrome), and the afflicted either hide or are taken away to The Den, where they are encouraged to commit suicide. The tension really spikes in the second half, as allies are made, an escape plan is formed, and stakes are raised. It all comes to a head when a cure for S.O.S. is found, and Silas and Nia make the decision not to take it.

Before I rip into what I didn’t like about the movie, here’s what I did like. Silas and Nia form bonds with other people afflicted with S.O.S., and they gather regularly in a support group pattern to talk about having S.O.S. and how they cope with it, giving and taking comfort amongst themselves. It really reminded me of the struggles of the LGBTQ+ community in our world today. They have no choice – they are the way they are. Their choices are so limited. By coming out, they could be bullied, discriminated against, or even killed. By hiding and staying closeted, they’re denying their true selves. As demonstrated in the film, hiding is no easy feat. Inhuman discipline and vigilance is required, and any little slips are unforgivable and could cost you everything. I really appreciate this detail in the film.

As we approach the second half of the film, Nia is revealed to be pregnant (as a result of her copulation with Silas) and is sent to The Den. The plan is seemingly ruined.

She eventually gets out with some help, by impersonating another (dead) patient. Unfortunately, Silas goes looking for her at The Den, instead of staying at home and waiting for news, and thinks she’s dead because of the identity swap. So he goes off and gets the cure for S.O.S., because emotions aren’t worth anything to him anymore without Nia.

This is where I have a problem with Equals. This procession of events so typical of love stories nowadays – the girl is stuck worrying for the boy and breaks down, while the boy aggressively takes his future into his own hands. I felt so frustrated when the movie showed Nia just passively sitting in Silas’ apartment, waiting and waiting for him to show up, while he went off and received the cure. She could have gotten the cure, too, and Silas could have been the one left behind. I don’t know why they decided to take the story that way, but I’m sick of women being portrayed as domestic, passive, and over-emotional.

When Silas returned to the apartment, Nia reunites with him, her emotions overwhelming in contrast to his, which have been dampened by the cure. She is left desperately clinging onto him and their shared relationship and all their emotions – another typical role for women. She’s carrying all the emotional burden, she’s the one begging him to hold onto the memories. His fading emotions only served to remind me of how men are so often told that emotions are ‘weak’ and ‘unmanly’ and that ‘boys don’t cry’. The cure hadn’t kicked in full force yet – it required 6 hours to do so. Yet, he didn’t cry or break down when he realised what he’d destroyed. She was the one consoling him and reassuring him, shouldering the burden of his actions on her own shoulders.

In conclusion – I love Equals. It has a lot of potential to join the ranks of Lost In Translation and Her in terms of aesthetic and music, but I could do without the sexism. Although, couldn’t we all?

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