If you were to look at any given frame from Foe, you might assume it was a romantic drama and it is that, but it’s also a science fiction film set in the future. Imagine a sci-fi movie directed by Terrence Malick. Or Interstellar if it didn’t journey up into space with Matthew McConaughey. Rural sci-fi is unprecedented enough for this intimate three-hander to stand out.
Adapted from Iain Reid’s 2018 novel by Reid and director Garth Davis, Foe is set in the year 2056. Water is scarce, crops are challenged, and Henrietta (Saoirse Ronan) and Junior (Paul Mescal) are struggling to get by in the country.
Late one night, the married couple is surprised to get a knock at the door. They reluctantly let in Terrance (Aaron Pierre), a man from a corporation called Outermore which is overseeing a climate migration program. Junior has been chosen to be in one of the first groups to make the journey to a large space station that’s intended to support civilization at large.
Junior, who works in a chicken plant and unwinds with nightly beer, is skeptical about the invitation, which is not also extended to his wife. When Terrance leaves, we discover that they are not on the best terms, with Hen asking that Junior spend the night in the guest room.
Eventually, Terrance convinces the couple that the government-backed plan is the right move for the young working class family. To get there, Junior has to undergo a number of procedures and Terrance is on hand more often than not to observe the couple’s interactions. Part of the plan involves Hen getting a new replicant husband to replace Junior when he’s gone. Needless to say, that notion doesn’t sit well with Junior, despite Terrance’s assurances.
Foe is a strange hybrid of artsy character study and high-concept sci-fi. There’s little reason for its budget to have exceeded seven figures and much of that would have gone to its in-demand leads, a couple of young but accomplished Irish actors doing their best to hide their native accents.
Ronan, who turned 29 last spring, has been acting in movies for more than half her life. She deserves credit for consistently gravitating towards mature, provocative fare rather than the teen-oriented tripe she no doubt has been offered. In fact, Foe represents her first sci-fi credit in over a decade and the last — 2013’s The Host — was seemingly her only real brush with mindless mainstream garbage. She easily gives the best performance in this film.
Mescal, a mere 27 and riding high off his Best Actor Oscar nomination from 2022’s low-key Aftersun, does more acting than he needs to here. He’s not bad, it’s just clear his efforts are often unneeded in a movie that wants you to believe it’s more creative than it is.
There is a major twist you might well not be able to wrap your head around. Twists are rarely more than a gimmick and this one is no exception. But, Davis and Reid do commit to the tone, keeping things artsy and adult instead of something exciting and spectacular.
After premiering at the New York Film Festival in late September, Foe was supposed to get an October release and gradual rollout from Amazon MGM Studios, which, given the tepid festival reviews, would have likely resulted in modest ticket sales and an absolute minimum of awards buzz. Instead, the film premieres on Amazon Prime this week, where it can temporarily be declared the best/worst movie of the new year, a year one can only call Twenty-Twenty-Foe until they see literally anything else.
Directed by Garth Davis
New to Prime
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