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January 4, 2024 / Prime Video

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Paul Mescal, Aaron Pierre

Directed By: Garth Davis

Academy Award® nominees Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal star in Foe, a haunting exploration of marriage and identity set in an uncertain world. Hen and Junior farm a secluded piece of land that has been in Junior’s family for generations, but their quiet life is thrown into turmoil when an uninvited stranger (Aaron Pierre) shows up at their door with a startling proposal. Are they willing to risk their relationship, and perhaps their personal identity, for a chance to continue survival in a new world? Based on bestselling author Iain Reid’s novel, directed by Garth Davis and co-written by Davis and Reid, Foe’s mesmerizing imagery and persistent questions about the nature of humanity (and artificial humanity) bring the not-too-distant future to luminous life.

Written By Darren

Rating 2.5 out of 5

Foe may have Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan pulling double time with their performances as they try to make Garth Davis’s latest film an intriguing science fiction character thriller, but a convoluted, unfocused and poorly scripted screenplay prevents this film from ever becoming the thought provoking experience it should have been.

Australia Garth Davis’s first film Lion impressed audiences with an emotional drama that not only tugged on audience’s heart strings, but that of the Academy and earned it six Academy Award nominations. His follow up film, Mary Magdalene, had a more mixed reception, but Foe had the promise to be another hit for Davis. Based on an incredibly well received novel and featuring Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan in the lead roles, what could go wrong? Well sadly, Foe does not make a great jump to the big screen despite strong performances carrying the film. There is an interesting story to be told with the material, one that could have resulted in a great psychological thriller, but Davis’s screenplay fails to portray the captivating themes and rising tension in a manner that lends itself well to the cinematic format.

When your film is led by Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan, there is no doubt that it’s going to feature two great performances, even with a messy screenplay that largely leaves them stranded and on their own. Watching Mescal’s Junior unravel on screening is a maddening experience that pulls the audience into Junior’s paranoia as he suspects his wife and Terrence are keeping secrets from him. Ronan does a wonderful job toying with the audience as she creates a truly sympathetic and loving character in Hen, while at the same time making some suspect decisions that casts doubt on whether she has a secret she is hiding from Junior or not. As a pairing, Mescal and Ronan are exquisite, creating a powerful dynamic between their characters that helps to build the tension as the story progresses. While he is in a supporting role opposite Mescal and Ronan, Aaron Pierre holds his ground as Terrence and has exciting moments with both Mescal and Ronan. Pierre plays his character with a precision that ensures that Terrence does not waver from his job, while brewing a dangerous intent beneath his surface that will have you questioning what Terrance is truly doing at Junior and Hen’s home.

Where the film falters is the screenplay. By the time you reach the end of the film and all is revealed, you have no doubt that Foe has an interesting story to tell. But, the screenplay is a tonal mess of disjointed ideas that prevents the film from ever taking off, making the final act twist a head-scratching revelation as it feels like you’ve entered a completely different movie. While there is a science fiction element to the story with Junior’s character being sent to space and an AI robot being built in his place, the story in the first two acts is very much a marriage drama between Junior and Hen. The dialogue is clunky, preventing the emotion of the daunting reality faced by these two characters from coming across clearly. What is causing Junior’s paranoia is unclear, other than a generic and uninformed trust of the company man, which stalls the middle act of the film where the tension should be rising simultaneously in both the audience and characters. Once the reveal happens, whether you accept it or think it’s a betrayal of the first two acts, there is life to the story that begins to pose some interesting questions that help create the film you wanted for the first hour, while presenting the audience with new questions as everything you thought you knew about this story has changed. Though sadly, it’s too late to save the film from being an overall bore. With the film being based on a novel, I can see this story unfolding on the page better as you can get into Junior’s mindset and hear his inner thoughts as the paranoia rises with the arrival of Terrance at his home, but it’s not a story well suited for a visual medium with the screenplay that Davis has written.

Visually speaking, the film looks pretty great. The cinematography by Mátyás Erdély captures the barren environment surrounding Junior’s farm in a striking manner, combined with the green lighting, helps to create a haunting visual experience that feels ominous and right at home in the science fiction genre. Erdély conjures up the mystery with his visuals of the greenlight and dirt that Davis tried to create but failed to come remotely close to through his direction and screenplay.

When you scroll past a film on a streamer starring Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan, it's enough to make you stop and contemplate hitting play, which is likely to be the case with Garth Davis’s latest film. While the premise and science fiction element is enough to intrigue viewers and encourage them to give it a watch, the actual experience is rather hollow despite the potential being there. It’s impossible to fault Paul Mescal, Saoirse Ronan and Aaron Pierre who all do great work despite the lackluster script they are given, which sadly fails to capture the intriguing story it strived for.

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