Zoe (2018)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Zoe (2018) Movie Poster Image
Slow-moving sci-fi love story falls flat; some sex, drugs.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 104 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Love changes you in profound and unexpected ways. Asks lots of questions about finding happiness, accepting yourself, and accepting others for who they are. Can there be any humanity in something you can turn off? If a machine has feelings, does that mean it's real? You're not going to find what you're looking for in a pill. Brief negative message about being overweight when Zoe admits being embarrassed about the fact that she used to be "heavy" and still has a problem with food.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cole is a kind, caring, and empathetic but emotionally detached. He and his ex-wife model a very good relationship, although early on he's clearly still grieving the loss of their relationship. He's also a loving father. Zoe want to experience everything life has to offer, but what she wants most is for Cole to return her affection, to love and be loved. Ash is supportive and loyal, and he gracefully accepts that Zoe doesn't feel the same way about him that he does for her.

Violence

A woman's hit by a car, no blood or gore is shown, and she survives. Some mild fantasy gore when a human-looking "synthetic's" torso is opened.

Sex

Several scenes take place in a brothel where people interact sexually with "synthetics." There's no nudity, but one or two brief glimpses of simulated oral sex, and the females are scantily clad in stereotypical prostitute outfits. Lots of kissing, cuddling, and caressing, often in bed but without any nudity or sensitive body parts shown. Blackboard drawings show human reproduction in doodles representing a penis with testicles and a "camel toe" that looks like the letter W. Drops are then drawn from the penis to the camel toe and it's jokingly explained that that's how humans are made.  A man is briefly seen nude from behind jumping into water; a woman jumping in after him is seen topless from behind.

Language

"S--t" once.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking to excess isn't depicted, but many scenes take place in bars or pubs, and adults are frequently shown drinking. A fictional drug that makes people feel like they're deeply in love for several hours comes in pill form and is shown being crushed and mixed into liquids for consumption. The drug use isn't glamorized and consequences, mostly emotional, are shown. One character abuses the drug but eventually stops.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zoe is a quiet, gently-paced, sci-fi love story. There's a brothel where brief simulated sex acts are briefly shown (without nudity), as well as women in stereotypical prostitute outfits and depictions of people using and abusing a fictional drug. Those and other adult situations make it best for older teens and up. A man is briefly seen nude from behind jumping into water; a woman jumping in after him is seen topless from behind. Lots of kissing, caressing, and cuddling, sometimes in bed but without nudity. Blackboard drawings show human reproduction in doodles representing a penis with testicles and a "camel toe" that looks like the letter W. Drops are then drawn from the penis to the camel toe and it's jokingly explained that that's how humans are made. "S--t" is used once. A woman's hit by a car; there's no gore and she recovers. Brief, mild, fantasy gore when a human-like robot's abdomen is opened. Adults frequently drink alcohol, mostly wine, and never to excess; many scenes take place in bars or pubs. The movie asks a lot of questions about the nature of love and its power to transform, and a lot of typical sci-fi questions about artificial intelligence and the line between real humanity and machine.

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What's the story?

Cole (Ewan McGregor) and ZOE (Lea Seydoux) are coworkers. Cole designs and engineers "synthetics," robots with the most advanced artificial intelligence that are so realistic that people don't even know the latest models aren't human. Zoe uses computer algorithms to calculate the probably of successful long-term relationships so clients can find their perfect mate. Zoe starts to develop feelings for Cole, but he doesn't seem capable of returning them. When Zoe learns the truth about who she is, it completely shatters her life and her relationship with Cole. Both of them enter a downward spiral, and when they hit rock bottom, they finally understand the transformative power of love.

Is it any good?

Two of Hollywood's leading luminaries and talented supporters like Rashida JonesMiranda Otto, and Christina Aguilera unfortunately weren't enough to help the script find its way out of a paper bag. Just because they're spoken quietly by attractive people, cliches about love and artificial intelligence don't magically become profound. Possibly in attempt to balance some of the awfulness, McGregor and Seydoux improvise a number of scenes, but even those seem forced, possibly because the two fine actors never quite generate any on-screen chemistry.

The quiet, gentle pace of Zoe is sometimes at odds with the lens flare that seems to be mandatory in science fiction movies now. And the pace is sustained throughout the movie, which makes it a bit of a slog from about the halfway point. Adult situations, fictional drug use, and sexuality make it best for older teens and up, although there are many better choices out there for viewers interested in exploring man's relationship to technology and its effects on our emotional well being.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Cole's character. What are his strengths and weaknesses? What about Zoe's?

  • What other movies have you seen about artificial intelligence, cyborgs, or realistic robots? Which do you like best? Why?

  • Do you think we'll ever have "synthetics" as realistic as the ones in this movie? Should we? Why or why not?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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