A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Equals is a dystopian romance featuring popular actors Nicholas Hoult and Kristen Stewart. Set in a future in which emotions and love have been eradicated, the story follows two young adults who can suddenly feel. Although there are love scenes that show bodies pressed close together, none are particularly graphic; nudity is limited to bare shoulders, backs, and legs, even when the couple is shown showering together and apart. They also embrace and kiss each other passionately. There's no drinking/smoking or strong language, but there are a few disturbing scenes: A couple of dead bodies (both the result of suicide) are briefly visible, a couple is dragged off by guards, and a man is about to jump off a building but stops.
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What's the story?
EQUALS takes place in a dystopian future in which humans have explored the distant reaches of space, cured both cancer and the common cold, and learned to live utterly without emotions -- including love (and, as an extension, physical intimacy). The governing "Collective" expects citizens to turn in anyone who starts to couple off or express feelings: They're considered sick with "Switched-On Syndrome" (SOS), which -- like cancer -- is treated in stages, with Stage Four leading to forced rehabilitation or euthanasia. Illustrator Silas (Nicholas Hoult) starts to show signs of "switching on" after someone in his office building commits suicide; he notices that his coworker, Nia (Kristen Stewart), is subtly affected in a way their other colleagues are not. After Silas is formally diagnosed with Stage One SOS, he finds himself drawn more and more to Nia, who is in fact "hiding" her own ability to feel everything from loneliness to desire. They begin a forbidden relationship with the understanding that, if caught, they'll be punished or even killed.
Is it any good?
This predictable love-will-prevail romance benefits from attractive, expressive leads. Both Hoult (Warm Bodies) and Stewart (Twilight Saga) are YA-adaptation veterans who are skilled at evoking the nuanced and overwhelming feeling of falling in love; they couldn't be better suited to playing outlier humans who feel despite that being considered a sickness in their slick, emotion-free society. Stewart is skilled at expertly conveying much in even the smallest of gestures, whether it’s her signature hair touch or the slightest squint of the eyes. She and Hoult make it look completely believable that all it takes in an utterly repressed world is a few charged, longing looks and breathless caresses in a bathroom stall for two people to fall recklessly in love with each other.
As in Like Crazy, director Drake Doremus continues to ponder the mysteries of love -- and, in this case, whether it’s indeed a sickness so overwhelming that it's worth risking your life to protect. Propelled by the appealing leads and memorable cinematography (the exterior shots are particularly fascinating, and the interior shots favor close-ups of Hoult and Stewart as they reach and look and touch) Equals -- which is reminiscent of futuristic films like Gattaca, as well as young-adult stories like The Giver and Delirium -- is a bit too quiet to merit a real fandom but still sweet enough to be enjoyed by those who favor indie romances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the popularity of dystopian stories like Equals. What do you think makes futuristic romances so compelling to audiences? What does Equals have in common with other movies in this genre? How is it different?
How is the central romantic relationship portrayed? Is it a strong relationship? Why or why not?
What are the consequences of the protagonists having unprotected sex? Is what happened believable?
Are there any role models in the movie? What do they do that is brave, selfless, and/or helpful?
The movie has some upsetting/intense scenes. Do you consider them violent? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: September 6, 2016
- Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce
- Director: Drake Doremus
- Studio: A24
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic content, sensuality, partial nudity and disturbing images
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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