Silas (Nicholas Hoult) and Nia (Kristen Stewart) work together as an illustrator and writer, respectively, at the space department. It’s a coveted gig — insofar as coveting anything is socially acceptable — but they go about their jobs quietly and efficiently, each working behind giant touchscreen monitors in the crisp white uniforms. When Silas starts to feel some emotional tremors, his doctor diagnoses him with SOS and prescribes inhibitors, but his newfound sensitivity leads him to suspect Nia is a hider and the two embark on a relationship that could land them both in the dreaded “den.”
Equals opens up into an entire subculture of hiders, including ones played by Guy Pearce and Jacki Weaver, who hold clandestine support meetings and plot strategies for living with the “disease.” But Doremus and his screenwriter, Nathan Parker, haven’t thought through their premise enough to make it seem like a plausible dystopia, because there’s no one who benefits from this oppression and the acts required to sustain the system draw on feelings of hostility, suspicion, and paranoia. The more time they spend explicating this world, the less persuasive it becomes.
The heart of Equals, then, is the forbidden love between Silas and Nia, who do not yet have personalities to match their sudden fecundity of emotion. Since Twilight, Stewart has specialized in outré romance and bottled-up passion, to the point where a role like Nia is second nature. But the story is told through Silas’ perspective and his evolution into a more rounded human being — he cries and forgets to shave — continues to register as stiffly as when he started. Equals wants to access an untapped wellspring of feeling — happiness, depression, fear, and love, all experienced for the first time — but it plumbs barren ground.
Curated by Erbe