Review: Films Inspired By Japan – Equals (2015)

“Inspired” by Japan may be pushing it but this science fiction romance drama set in a futuristic utopian universe was mostly filmed in Japan so purely for that reason it will be reviewed here on Tokyo Fox! Whenever Japan has been used for filming it’s almost always played itself so this is a fairly unique situation.

Equals‘ is set in a future society where there’s no free thinking or decision making and all emotions are suppressed as they’re considered to be a disease called SOS (Switched Off Syndrome). All the citizens are members of a kind of cult living under “The Collective” which is a legislative body that monitors and controls actions with the aid of drugs when necessary.

Warning: Contains Spoilers!

Following a suicide one day, Nicholas Hoult’s character Silas notices fellow worker Nia (Kristen Stewart) showing emotion whilst everyone else is almost immune to it in their reactions. He confronts her and they end up falling in love and regularly meet up at night. Assisted by a couple of radical insiders, they plan to leave the compound and live freely as a couple but eventually their suspect behaviour catches the eye of the authorities and their love gets pushed to the limit.

It all sounds reasonably good on paper but of course transferring it from script to film is a different matter altogether and director Drake Doremus sadly ended up with style over content. It won’t surprise regular readers of these Japan-related reviews that I think the best thing about it is the cinematography with filming having taken place in Singapore and Niigata, Hyogo, Shiga, Osaka, Shizuoka and Saitama were all used in Japan.

What this means is some fine, modern Japanese architecture full of “members” in white clothing walking around like zombies whilst ignoring each other in fear of the watching authorities. This film is severely lacking in dialogue, which is fine sometimes, but there really isn’t enough going on here to keep the audience so engaged, especially after the first half an hour or so when it slows down.

The cast is pretty strong with Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult in the lead roles. The latter has come a long way since playing the socially-awkward kid alongside Hugh Grant in ‘About A Boy‘ (2002). Likewise for Guy Pearce who, along with Jackie Weaver, is one of the supporting characters. It’s been a long, long time since he was in the Aussie soap ‘Neighbours‘ and he has done some great stuff since then but is fairly underused here which is a shame.

It’s a slow moving 101 minutes and for me it comes across as a little pretentious. It’s not as intriguing as it thinks it is and there are too many silent montages and close ups. Overall, it really did remind me of George Lucas’ ‘THX 1138‘ (1971) but maybe that’s just because of the whiteness of it all and it really is a very white film regarding the outfits and buildings. The dystopian theme is of course similar too.

The story somewhat mirrors that of ‘Romeo and Juliet‘ in that a couple of lovers are kept apart by social expectations and have to keep their love hidden from others. The female is helped by a care worker in faking her death and the guy, believing she’s dead, then goes to kill himself before she returns to find the tragic circumstances of her deception. Again, that all makes it sound better than it really was and in truth the romance story is not that captivating. By the end of it I too was left fairly emotionless.

Tokyo Fox Rating 4/10 

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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