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‘Foe’ LFF 2023 Review: An Unconventional Love Story And Futuristic Tale


Saoirse Ronin and Paul Mescal in 'Foe' (2023)
Image courtesy of Getty / BFI London Film Festival

If you are already put off by the idea of marriage, maybe this isn’t the movie for you.


For me, the allure of Foe was seeing Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal portraying a married couple. However, don't expect a tale of harmonious love. Instead, you're thrust into the future world of 2065, a parched landscape where water and land are scarce, and AI technology blurs the lines between man and machine.

While some may argue that Foe treads familiar territory in the realm of sci-fi, it's far from ordinary. The brilliance of this film doesn't lie in its sci-fi imaginings or plot twists. It is in the uncanny ability to unravel the complexities of human relationships that it shines.

The film takes us on a journey through a decaying marriage, a microcosm of the desolation that envelopes their home. Director Garth Davis draws inspiration from a remote Australian house, infusing the setting with vibrant details that make the house a character itself. The use of space, the peephole, and the guest room add to the delicate balance between intimacy and exposure. Within these confines, the film unravels a story of love, betrayal, and the weight of unfulfilled dreams.

The introduction of Terrence (Aaron Pierre), a character who is charming but unnerving, adds an eerie and voyeuristic layer to the couple's life. As he intrudes upon their world, we similarly become uninvited guests, observing their relationship and deciphering his motivations throughout the narrative.

Junior (Paul Mescal), a character with a dual nature, becomes an intriguing study, as the audience witnesses a younger, more affectionate version in the AI replacement. The older, embittered Junior encountered later is marked by dismissiveness and anger. The return of rain, which should be a cause for celebration, only accentuates the schism in their relationship.


Henrietta (Saoirse Ronan), on the other hand, lives a restricted life, bound by Junior’s ancestral ties to their home. The film portrays Hen's constrained existence and her return to the piano, left untouched, as per Junior's wishes. We witness her isolation within her marriage, especially when she is primarily seen with the AI Junior, who displays emotional vulnerability and closeness to Henrietta, in stark contrast to the cold distance we feel from the real Junior. This leads to an entangled relationship, one where the line between human connection and technology is blurred.

What sets Foe apart from other sci-fi pieces is its retrospective value. Elements that may seem confusing or underdeveloped on first viewing gain clarity upon rewatch. The refusal of Hen to share a bed with Junior, Junior's panic and paranoia, and Hen's calls to Terrence for help amidst AI Junior’s breakdown, all make sense in the context of a second viewing.

Foe is a poignant exploration of what it means to be human, emphasising the value of our relationships and the environment. The love between Henrietta and Junior, though replicable, is fragile and at the heart of the narrative. The complex emotions of the AI Junior echo the fragility of human existence, commenting on the human struggle to maintain connections in a dying world. Foe leaves the viewer with a sense of yearning and nostalgia in a world on the brink of demise, prompting introspection about what is taken for granted in life.


 

Edited by Barney Nuttall, Deputy Editor-in-Chief




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