Foe is a sci-fi/thriller, based on a novel by Ian Reid, that examines a couple whose marriage is put through unprecedented challenges of the near future. Hen, played by Saoirse Ronan, and Junior, played by Paul Mescal, are a young couple living isolated lives whose marriage has grown stale and repetitive. An unwanted guest arrives and tells them Junior has been selected to go to space and have an AI replica created of him to keep Hen company while he is away. This is the second of Ian Reid’s novels to have a film adaptation, the first being I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020) directed by Charlie Kaufman. Reid co-wrote the film with writer-director Garth Davis who is best known for his film Lion (2016).
Davis’ near-apocalyptic film captures the anxieties of what our future on Earth will look like, and how technology will impact the path of humanity moving forward. Foe may be a seemingly quiet film, but the message and plights of the film scream out, begging to be heard. What happens after we have reduced the Earth to dust? Will we have a second chance? Can technology save us? Will humans learn to adapt and evolve? Reid and Davis pose these questions with grace and urgency all at the same time, making Foe a film you may watch again and again.
Foe ebbs and flows between the still moments of a relationship to the crashing down of hopes and dreams, while begging existential questions of the future. Filmed in the Australian desert, cinematographer Mátyás Erdély captures the overwhelming sense of emptiness and boiling of the couple. Everything is hot, dry, and full of dust: the ultimate physical representation of a neglected relationship. The beautiful moments are intimate and warm, while the brutal instances are boiling, sweaty, and dizzying. The camera captures these moments and puts the audience right in between the couple for a closer than just a front-row experience.
Saoirse Ronan has never faltered in a single role, and her portrayal of Hen shows that she can pull back whenever it is necessary without sacrificing the emotional impact of the performance. Hen is a caged bird, mimicking a sentiment as old as time for women who have been reduced to the role of wife as their individualities are secretly and slowly taken away from them. Mescal’s character Junior is the epitome of taking their wife for granted and realizing their faults only when their wife truly begins to fade away into her mind. Junior is a man who rejects his wrongdoings while also trying to atone for them, pushing and pulling his wife without consideration of what this whiplash may do to her.
When the stranger named Terrance, played by Aaron Pierre, abruptly inserts himself into the couple’s marriage, the film begins to reveal its true intentions: Technology has officially inserted itself into Hen and Junior’s marriage, adding the first spark between them in what seems like forever. Ronan and Mescal are powerhouses, never missing a beat per usual. Despite these circumstances being that of science fiction, the cast makes you feel as if this is a future we might need to consider is possible. Fear oozes from the actors, scared their relationship will die with the Earth, and they can’t even help it. The Oscar-nominated duo effortlessly depicts the struggling couple in their best and worst moments, gliding seamlessly through the terribly odd circumstances their relationship is put under.
It is a slow burn to watch, but when Foe hits its boiling point it does not miss. Davis’ film is that of curiosity and heartbreak, but also a warning to what the future could mean for everyday folks. Foe never fully gives into the audience’s wants but rather caters to its characters, giving them the same respect you might give a close friend. The intimate look into the marriage of Hen and Junior is refreshing while also being a bit scary, it is rare a story can delve so deep into a couple with such understanding. It is a beautiful film while at the same time being utterly terrifying. Foe opens October 6th in theaters and it is worth the watch, and it will also be rewarding after the second viewing.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
I truly think time will tell with Foe, it will either become so searingly true in the near future or stay a cautionary tale we luckily can avoid. The anxiety-ridden questions of AI and the world dying have weighed heavy on my mind since the viewing. Moments of the film stick out like memories that I find myself reviewing. It is a slow burn, but it is only 108 minutes, making it a perfect length to linger on this seemingly mundane couple. The mundanity of this farmhouse couple is refreshing to see, circumstances that are larger than life only prove to make Hen and Junior to be as human as everyone else. I would be surprised to see any nominations for this film, but if time is kind to it, Foe will garner quiet praise.