Canadian author Iain Reid’s follow-up novel to the harrowing I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2016), Foe, is again a look at relationships in a remote setting. In the Midwest in 2065, a couple, Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal), live on a remote farm that has been in Junior’s family for generations. With natural resources exhausted, the Earth is becoming unliveable and corporations are looking to space for options while using machines to work in danger zones on earth.
One evening, a stranger, Terrance (Aaron Pierre), comes calling. He says he is from an aerospace company called OuterMore and that Junior has been chosen to live on a space station for two years. Junior is not happy at the thought of Hen being alone for the time. Terrance assures him that Hen will be taken care of by a lifelike robot, an exact copy of Junior.
Junior is shocked and repulsed by the idea of a robot taking his place. Terrance moves in with the couple to collect data to make the robot as close to Junior as possible and conduct tests on Junior to make him ready for his space odyssey. There are strains in the relationship as Junior begins to suspect Hen knows more about what is going on than she is letting on.
Director: Garth Davis
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, Aaron Pierre
Runtime: 110 minutes
Storyline: A marriage is challenged when a stranger comes calling with an audacious proposal
The screenplay, which director Garth Davis co-wrote with Reid, like the book is low on science fiction elements. Those looking for a standard-issue dystopian signature are bound to be disappointed. This is a movie about relationships in a sci-fi setting. Apart from the crumbling marriage which echoes the decaying planet, Foe asks questions about memory and identity — which you can say are as much sci-fi staples as human ones.
Do memories make us human? Blade Runner saw Deckard telling Rachel, a replicant, that her memories are an implant and Blade Runner 2049 went a step further with the memory maker. Foe is a film that takes time to reveal its secrets, constantly keeping you off-kilter as you watch the proceedings on screen.
A slow burn, the pay-off is richly rewarding and might prompt you to watch the film again for the clues that are peppered through the narrative, quite like the book with the quotation marks for all dialogue except for one character. The film would have been a slog if it were not for the incandescent performances by Ronan and Mescal. The two are riveting in their depiction of this couple at the end, middle and beginning of a relationship, struggling with the truth, non-truth and post-truth of their lives.
Even the title, which is such a small word, lends itself to heavy-duty interpretation. Foe is a fascinating example of no matter how far we go, there are some things about the human experience that do not change. Like the ‘Beyond the Sea’ episode of Black Mirror — which Foe bears a passing semblance to — this is a movie that stays with you long after the credits have rolled.
Foe is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video