Saoirse Ronan & Paul Mescal lead a dull and uneventful sci-fi drama that fails to live up to its intriguing premise.
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Every once in a while there’s a movie that has a brilliant director, a top-notch writing team, an immensely talented cast that mixes A-listers and rising stars and an intriguing concept. It has all the right ingredients to make for a bonafide hit. Unfortunately, the final product ends up destroying all of its potential and becomes one of the biggest duds of the year.
Unfortunately, for 2023, that movie is “Foe,” the latest film from “Lion” director Garth Davis, based on the novel by Iain Reid. Boasting a stellar trio of stars in Academy Award nominees Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal alongside up-and-comer Aaron Pierre, the dystopian sci-fi flick attempts to tackle our fears about an uncertain future and the rapid evolution of AI.
Set in the year 2056, “Foe” revolves around Henrietta (Ronan) and Junior (Mescal), a simple-minded married couple who live on a remote farm somewhere in the Midwest. Their lives are simple, during the day Junior works at a meat-packing facility while Henrietta is a waitress at a nearby diner. At night, Junior kicks back on his recliner, while Henrietta brings him a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon and pours herself a glass of wine. They end each day, by making love to one another on their tiny bed.
Their quiet lives are suddenly disrupted by the arrival of the enigmatic stranger Terrance (Pierre), who informs the couple that Junior has been selected to travel to his company’s large space station for several years. The only issue is, that he won’t be allowed to bring his wife Henrietta, and in his place will be a robot replicant of him, with all of his memories intact.
Henrietta and Junior’s marriage quickly begins to crumble and tensions grow. To make matters even more uncomfortable, Terrance has moved in with the couple in order to “evaluate” their relationship.
The concept surrounding “Foe” is a fascinating one and feels very reminiscent of “Black Mirror.” However - unlike the popular anthology series - Davis and Reid, who co-wrote the screenplay, never really explore the concept to its fullest.
Instead, the 110-minute runtime feels uneventful and tedious, rarely anything occurs, and when something does, it is executed in a way that feels so clunky and difficult to understand. “Foe” is a slow-burn type of movie, that was clearly the intent, but the execution is just too meandering, leading to a thoroughly unpleasant experience.
Ronan and Mescal are usually two very reliable performers, so it makes sense to put them in a movie together, unfortunately, they lack any sort of chemistry with one another. While Davis likely wanted to create a cold and distant atmosphere, where even the loving moments between the pair are supposed to feel off, everything just feels emotionless and numb.
Their individual performances are decent enough, but the script really brings them down. We rarely know anything about them, which makes it increasingly difficult to care.
Pierre’s Terrance had a lot of potential to be an intriguing addition. He exudes a lot of natural charisma, which makes the audience feel uneasy around him. Alas, the script never knows what to do with his character and instead makes him feel like an afterthought. Is he secretly in love with Henrietta? Is he a scam artist? Or is he telling the truth about everything? He’s a character that is intended to exist in a morally gray area but instead comes across as two-dimensional.
Aesthetically “Foe” is a beautiful film to look at. Even with the limited locations, Mátyás Erdély’s camerawork is lush and atmospheric. At the very least, the visuals look stellar on the big screen.
Oliver Coates, Park Jiha, and Agnes Obel’s score is equally impressive, and perfectly accompanies the film’s bleak dystopian atmosphere, invoking emotions that were never achieved in other departments.
“Foe” is a shocking disappointment. It’s not often that a film with this talented of a creative team makes something so dull, that makes you question who it was even made for.