Film Review: Foe is a love story set in a dystopian future wasteland

Hen (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal) are farming a remote piece of land that has been in his family for generations. The land is under drought, and globally the environment is struggling. In the middle of the night, an uninvited government agent (Aaron Pierre) shows up at their door with a surprise. Junior has been selected to spend time in an orbiting space capsule, a cross between a lottery prize and a conscription. To help Hen run the farm in his absence, Junior will be analysed and studied in order to create a realistic robot clone. The agent, Terrance, moves into the home to run tests and challenges on Junior to prepare him for space travel.

Foe is based on best-selling author Iain Reid’s novel, directed by Australian Garth Davis, who co-wrote the script. Academy-Award nominated Paul Mescal starred in Aftersunwhich was showcased in the 2022 AFF.

The movie describes a bleak future where natural disasters wipe out communities and food is produced in soul-destroying factory conditions. Cities are becoming overcrowded, and the farmland is largely abandoned. Junior works on a massive chicken farm to make ends meet, whilst Hen waitresses at a lonely diner.

News of Junior’s assignment causes the couple to examine their relationship in detail. The camera work paints a claustrophobic view of their world, contrasting vividly with the expansive outside scorched earth. It’s as if they are trapped in an anachronistic past that is at odds with the modern world. A world that is both in danger of collapse, yet at the same time embracing advanced futuristic technology.

The tension is almost unbearable to watch. Despite Terrance’s openness and frankness, there is an unsettling feeling that there is more to his presence than what he lets on. The couple are also torn between tender moments and stark moments of distrust. Davis manages to keep the tension alive for most of the film.

It’s a fascinating study on what the future may hold for humanity and what role governments may have in saving future generations by using technology. It’s by no means an easy film to watch. The silence hides more than a loud score ever could. Moments of humour and tenderness give the viewer a short reprieve. Still, like the oppressive heat enveloping the parched land, the overall impression of Foe is an uncomfortable feeling that things are awry, without knowing exactly what.

Those who enjoy a slow-burn juxtaposition of artificial humanity within a dystopian future will enjoy watching Foe.  However, it could be a laborious two hours for those not into this genre.

FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Foe screened as part of the Adelaide Film Festival at The Piccadilly

Tickets here: https://adelaidefilmfestival.org

The Adelaide Film Festival has secured a reputation around the globe as an essential screen culture event and was named in Variety Film magazine’s 50 Unmissable Film Festivals list and locally acclaimed as Best Festival by Arts SAs Ruby Awards. With a distinctively curated program of Australian and international screen culture, special events, awards and forums, the Festival continues to be regarded as a premier destination for new and exciting screen projects.