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Davis, 2023

Sometimes when I watch a film, I will get a short ways into it, and will realize I am watching a new permutation of a familiar story. Or in the case of 2023's Foe, a new examination of a existential philosophical conundrum.

The film was recommended to me by my sister. My sister tends to like films like Little Women, A Star is Born, CODA, and things of this nature - sort of down to Earth human stories. I went into Foe knowing absolutely nothing about it, save that I saw a still of Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal on the Amazon splash page. I didn't read the description or even check the genre. Imagine my surprise when not only was I presented with a science fiction film, but a bleak, austere existential piece in the vein of Ray Bradbury,

Anyway, I quickly realized what I was watching was another take on artificial beings and their sentience. These days, when I realize this is what I am watching, I have to make a conscious choice not to automatically start comparing what I am watching to earlier works of the same nature, and I try to avoid the "oh, this again" knee-jerk. Otherwise, I am sort of admitting that everything has been said on the subject, and I should just move on from it as far as interest is concerned.

So, with that said, the focus for me sort of shifts to the filmmaking, the performances, and whether or not the film has something new to say about the subject. I think Foe excels in two of the three. The film looks great, again embracing a very bleak, morose atmosphere. A picture of a future Earth in dire trouble, with humans attempting to live in space in earnest as their home planet suffers from a variety of environmental crises. The performances are also excellent across the board. Ronan is pretty much money in anything she does, and the two other leads, Paul Mescal and Aaron Pierre and both stellar.

Where the film falters is in its exploration of the subject matter, where it hints at some deeper explorations, but doesn't end up examining them with much gusto. Relying on a twist that I picked up almost immediately, it shoots wide of the mark by not focusing enough on the effects of the twist on its characters after the fact, which are presented as more of a coda instead of a full third act. Also, for a film that exercises restraint throughout most of its runtime, I was surprised at a couple of the final scenes that leaned into a more heavy-handed approach to ensure the viewer that yes, this is twist and yes, there is more to it, and just in case you still don't get it, here is a final 10 second scene to really make sure you get it. Removing about 20 seconds of footage would have left quite a bit more ambiguity, which I would have preferred.

There is still some stuff to unpack, and I did find myself thinking about the film's implications after I was done watching it, but the overreliance on the twist, which is borrowed pretty much wholesale from other, better films, keeps this from being great. I liked it, though!

That said, while quickly googling the film to check the spelling on a couple of actor's names so I didn't accidently name one of them after a bottle of tequila, I noticed a really low RT rating for the film, which surprised me. This isn't a bad film, certainly not worth the rating I saw (I didn't check audience scores), and I think I would recommend it to any sci-fi fan without hesitation.