October 11th, 2023
STARRING: PAUL MESCAL, SAOIRSE RONAN, AARON PIERRE
DIRECTED BY: GARTH DAVIS
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There may not be a more disappointing movie in 2023 than Foe. Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal star in a science fiction drama from director Garth Davis. Two young exciting new actors, both with an instant magnetism, and often sharing the screen seems like perfect timing. Unfortunately, the actors are right but the screenplay is not. Foe fails to extract any true emotions, lacking in characters to care about, nor having clarity in what it’s trying to say about our future. You won’t get many friends of Foe.
Similar to what Davis had done in his Oscar-nominated film Lion, the theme here is isolation, with the screenplay co-written by Davis and author Iain Reid. The story opens with detailed text, about how the world has collapsed, with drought and unlivable air, forcing humans to live on space stations just outside of Earth. There are a few who have stayed, willing to adapt to a new way of living, and that includes Hen (Ronan) and Junior (Mescal). The house has been in Junior’s family for over 100 years. They can’t just abandon it. They have each other. When a man named Terrance (Aaron Pierre) arrives at their front door, he is there to tell Junior that he’s been chosen to go off-planet, working for the companies building the space stations, and leaving his loving wife behind. He will need to prepare for the next three months and hopefully absorb the last moments he will have with the woman he loves so much.
This could have been a tight drama about two people learning to live with the reality of loss and an eminently dark future. Instead, we’re introduced to a third wheel in Terrance, and his presence makes the viewer feel like a fourth wheel. What at first seems like romantic moments veers into a constant feeling of discomfort. The relationship is disintegrating or already has. Instead of Davis making things clear, you start to suspect one of them is a robot but we don’t know if anything is legit. The presence of Terrance is awkward from the start. He shows an interest in Hen, as a way to bait Junior, and the emotions turn from anger to friendly, giving us whiplash. It becomes impossible to appreciate or care for these characters because the end goal and the reality are not quite clear.
Typically it would be the performances from two pros like Ronan and Mescal that elevate bad material. Instead, it’s really just the bad material that brings them down, on top of the direction that seems meant for a different movie. Davis uses his drone shot style to give a view of the barren dry wasteland, but what is supposed to be once the Midwest of America is clearly the outback of Australia. Even the minor additions of self-driving cars and brief shots of space stations make science fiction seem outdated. Last week The Creator may have had its flaws but even by the standards of Foe, it would be a masterpiece.
It’s the ending of Foe where you hope for a payoff and even that is incredibly lackluster. The question I was left asking was what could be appreciated? The cinematography is often nice and there is an undeniable connection between Ronan and Mescal. Outside of that, it is a sluggish and frustrating attempt at thought-provoking sci-fi. Foe may be better on paper but this is a disappointment that will be impossible to wash off.
FOE IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS ON FRIDAY OCTOBER 13TH, 2023.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady