If a mysterious man knocked on your door in the dead of night and told you you’d be selected to leave your partner for an indeterminate length of time to complete an unspecified task ‘for the good of humanity’, the chances are you’d have one or two questions.
That’s the scenario faced by Junior (Paul Mescal) and Hen (Saoirse Ronan), a fracturing Midwestern couple in this nearish-future sci-fi from Lion director Garth Davis. The late-night visitor, a corporate functionary with a faintly sinister bedside manner (Underground Railroad’s Aaron Pierre), explains that Junior is on a list to travel into space. The upside is that he’ll be replaced by a fully-functioning A.I. Mescal-bot to keep her company in his absence. Which, of course, is also the downside.
Based on Iain Reid’s 2018 novel, Foe is coy in its sci-fi-ness, with cursory world-building and bare-bones context (there’s been a climate catastrophe, everyone’s sweaty). Davis extracts overheated performances and not a lot of chemistry from his ultra-charismatic leads, despite filming enough beefy Mescal bod to give Normal People fans a coronary.
A cannily-executed final-act twist aside, his film is stronger on the psychology of dying relationships, where sex feels less than an act of connection than a final spin of the roulette wheel, than the likely impact A.I. will have on our sense of our own humanity. Then again, 40 years after Blade Runner, this may not be the box-fresh topic many filmmakers seem to think.
In UK cinemas Oct 20