In the romantic science fiction drama “Equals,” Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult play star-crossed lovers being watched closely by a Big Brother in a future where emotions are disabled to achieve a peaceful society.
Produced by Ridley Scott’s production house, Scott Free and directed by accomplished filmmaker Drake Doremus, “Equals” is an emotionally and visually arresting film from a screenplay by Nathan Parker based on a story idea from Doremus.
“Equals” is a nuanced, slow-burning love story, the film is set in a futuristic utopia where emotions have been genetically suppressed in an effort to protect society from the war and strife that has destroyed previous generations. On occasion, the suppression fails and emotions emerge in individuals – the Collective dubs this illness Switched On Syndrome, or SOS. As society is increasingly threatened by this health crisis, all SOS sufferers are heavily medicated or sent to the Den, a corrective facility from which no one returns.
Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult are Nia and Silas who encounter each other as colleagues at the science journal, Atmos. As Silas begins to experience the onset of SOS and his own awakening emotions, he finds himself inextricably drawn to Nia, who is hiding her own SOS. The longer they attempt to suppress their palpable connection, the more the tension fans the flames of their attraction. But with this newfound pleasure of intimacy, comes the threat of discovery and consignment to the Den. With the support of a group of like-minded SOS patients, they realize escape is their only option.
While Doremus and Parker worked on the story and script night and day, producer Pruss and Scott Free strove to assemble the players necessary to push it into production. With the blessing of Scott Free production chief Michael Schaefer, the project attracted a group of heavyweight backers and the project’s journey to principal photography gathered momentum. Putting the project in front of Ridley Scott played a pivotal role in getting “Equals” made.
Pruss says: “Having Ridley Scott as a producer on the film and as someone who is going to present the film, was not just crucial, but very inspiring for us all. Obviously Ridley is someone who knows a thing or two about science fiction and I think you can really feel his imprint on the film.”
“Equals” also completes Drake Doremus’ trilogy of films about love, also comprised of the Sundance winning “Like Crazy” (2011) and “Breathe In” (2013). Equals began its journey to the screen with a question that Doremus posed to producer, Michael Pruss: “What will love look like in the future… do you think we could potentially evolve away from the thing that makes us most human?”
Doremus and Parker instantly clicked and began brainstorming the question and the myriad of ideas it conjured, before landing on the idea of a society where humans are genetically modified to be absent of feeling for the betterment of society. In developing the story, Parker strove to examine not just the positive aspects of love, but also the pain and agony that accompanies caring deeply for another person. “We wanted these two characters, once they discover love, for it to feel like it was a curse,” Parker says. “They don’t want it, they want to run away from it, but are drawn back together because they can’t resist it.”
“Equals” opens May 11, 2016 in theaters from Pioneer Films.