“Equals” features a dystopian future in the aftermath of a
worldwide war, where there's only this one bubble of civilization left.
The outside, they are all consistently told, consists only of
primitive barbarians, and they wouldn't want to go there.
So they don't.
Instead, they all live in a highly technological, but completely
sterile, environment, where emotions are suppressed, and feelings are
discouraged, and all are supposedly treated as “equals”----that is,
everyone lives the same way. Go
to work in the government-sponsored computer lab that does research into
space exploration. Dress in
uniform white. All the same
hairstyle (slightly longer for the women, but simply combed back without
any teasing, frosting, or coloring).
Everybody lives in a colorless apartment where the bed slides out
at night. The sparse closet
merely offers identical garb. The
pre-prepared food is nutritious but sparse, meaning that everyone is
also perfectly proportioned, because they aren't putting on extra
weight. (Exercise class is mentioned, but not shown.
Presumably it would be without enthusiasm, also.)
Silas (Nicholas Hoult) seems to calmly accept all these spartan
circumstances without question or discomfort, until the day he suddenly
finds himself staring at a co-worker too long.
Nia (Kristen Stewart) notices his attention, and at first
pretends to ignore the shade of attraction in their interaction.
But she's feeling something, as well, and both are terribly
The government communications, presented matter-of-factly on
public screens in reasonable voices, instructs everyone that S.O.S.
(Switched On Syndrome) is a disease that needs immediate treatment.
So, if you're starting to feel something, you're to report to
your superior, who will refer you to the Health and Safety Department,
which will issue you pills to suppress your emotions, but also “tag”
you at all the security clearances.
If you progress to the final stage of the dread disease, you're
sent to the place where they give you shock treatments, and where the
only escape is suicide. And
by the way, it's not that unusual to see someone drop from the rooftop
because they just can't stand it any more, but the mess is soon cleaned
up and everybody just goes back to their quiet work.
The only music is some classical that plays in your apartment,
where the only entertainment seems to be working 3-D puzzles.
There's no individuality at all, and there's to be no contact
with the opposite gender. When
it's time for “conception duty,” the women will be notified.
(We don't actually see any babies or children, but we presume
they're being raised in a separate facility.)
What happens is the unthinkable:
Silas and Nia develop feelings for each other, and soon try to
find ways to hide so they can be together.
At first it's very Junior High----a lot of face-touching and
confusion because of the remarkable inexperience at such interaction.
However, soon they discover the ways of all lovers everywhere,
but now their problems compound: there's
no socially acceptable way for them to be together.
So they seek escape, which isn't easy, either.
After almost veering into a Romeo and Juliet kind of ending, we
settle for something less than happily ever after, but the point of the
futuristic parable is still pretty clear:
we ought to be able to love whom we want, and society's efforts
to circumscribe that are actually attempting to suppress human nature.
Have you noticed the t-shirts that say “Keep Calm”?
That would be the mantra of the future in “Equals.”
The problem with that is the rest of the statement in the
Declaration of Indepdence, the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness. Ah,
there's the individuality we all long for, especially the repressed
characters in “Equals.”