Foe

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any streaming offers for Foe.

Hen and Junior (Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal) are not a happy couple. In the harsh environment of the not-too-distant future, the flame of their first love appears to have faded. The year is 2065, our world has been destroyed, and people are looking to the skies for a means of survival. But before they can colonize space, the unholy alliance of the state and the business sector will require an army to assist in the construction of their new spaceship paradise. With little time to enjoy their days together due to the arrival of Terrance (Aaron Pierre), a stranger who wants to hire Junior but not Hen, the couple must decide on their future as a couple. One ray of hope is offered by Terrance: Junior’s flesh-and-blood clone will exist here on Earth.

If the plot of “Foe” seems familiar, it’s because science fiction has been wrestling with the prospect of robots or artificial creatures becoming too real ever since Philip K. Dick’s landmark work, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? There are numerous examples of searching for life in artificially created objects, from the replicants in the “Blade Runner” (a film adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel) to the young kid in “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” who longs for his mother. But by relying more on melodrama than logic and favoring cliche over innovation, “Foe” collapses fairly miserably. The movie doesn’t do much beyond recycling stereotypes and providing some absurdly awful jokes.

“Foe” was written by Iain Reid, the creator of the source material, and Garth Davis (“Lion”), who both directed and co-wrote the screenplay. However, something must have been lost in translation from the page to the screen. There must be painfully clear clues, and the filmmaker even begins the film by outlining what happened, as if he doesn’t trust his audience to figure out the plot. Knowing that artificial beings with human-like characteristics existed, I believed they would show up at any time. Well, I was right about that within the first few minutes of the movie. Much of the story’s thrill is lost if the sense of suspense is eliminated in favor of simple solutions.

From there, nothing gets better. While Mescal and Ronan give their all in this movie, it almost becomes overwhelming. Davis doesn’t seem to understand that lingering his camera on their distressed faces makes moments seem overblown and unintentionally funny. These awful close-ups are virtually impossible to watch without laughing as the dialogue reads, “You’re going to hell! This can never be forgiven!” Picture Ronan trying to smile in a close-up, for example. She tries numerous times, but Davis never cuts or permits the crying that her character so desperately needs. She just keeps teasing the Joker-like tortured smile out of her face. It’s not supposed to be a journey into lunacy, but rather a tragic scenario.

It’s strange how “Foe” feels so lifeless and uninterested in what it’s like to be in a relationship with a replica of someone who has stopped loving you. Many aspects of the film seem strange, such as Junior’s strange, hostile need to control Hen or the awkward racial dynamic between Junior, a white man, and his rage against Terrance, a Black man from the government/private space company, and what Junior thinks of Terrance’s attraction to Hen, a white woman. While director Davis attempts to transform two Irish actors into Americans, that doesn’t sound right either. Cinematographer Mátyás Erdély reimagines the scenery of Australia into the Midwest of the future.

She works at a huge diner, and he is supposed to be employed by a very busy poultry factory, yet they are supposed to be living in one of the last remaining isolated areas. The government’s choice of Junior is also at best hazy, so why couldn’t they send a copy of their relationship to space if they could Xerox it? Ah, but “Foe” struggles when questioned.

Even the numerous sweaty close-ups of the film’s hot stars tussling in the covers are unable to accurately portray vitality in this curiously lifeless movie. Mescal and Ronan must watch as they do their damnedest to get the audience to care about their characters, only to see how little respect they receive as compared to Frankenstein’s Monster.

Lines like, “We never dreamed it would experience love,” further highlight how poorly this once-promising story was written. Images of Ronan relaxing on an old tree in a satin outfit and pink landscapes resemble magazine spreads more than actual scenes from a narrative. More science fiction films will probably pose the same query as before: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” when AI and climate issues become an ever-growing concern for our reality. I hope they come up with more intriguing solutions than “Foe” did.

The 2023 New York Film Festival is where this review was submitted. Prior to a Prime Video exclusive release, “Foe” has its theatrical debut on October 6th.

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