Star Rating:


Director: Garth Davis

Actors: Paul Mescal, Saoirse Ronan

Release Date: Friday 20th October 2023

Genre(s): Drama, Sci-Fi

Running time: 110 minutes

In the near future, humanity will begin moving people to orbital space stations and other planets as Earth undergoes catastrophic climate change. Married couple Junior and Henrietta (Paul Mescal and Saoirse Ronan) live on a rural farm in the Midwest, and are approached by Terrence, (Aaron Pierre) a representative from a corporation that plans to send Junior to work on an orbital space station for two years. As part of this plan, Terrence must stay close and observe Junior and Hen in order to help with the construction of a biomechanical copy that will stay with Hen while Junior is in space...

As tantalising as the premise of a sci-fi romantic drama with two of the hottest young stars of the day might be, 'Foe' exists in that state permanently. It's almost there, but it never reaches it. There's an ethereal beauty in how Garth Davis leaves the camera to linger on landscapes, on the gorgeous decay, on the quiet moments between Mescal and Ronan's characters, but all of it ultimately is fleeting and wispy. The substance only goes so deep, and you're left with something that's ultimately hollow in its core. More than that, there are so many unanswered questions surrounding the central concept that one wonders how nobody's stopped and challenged any of them. Of course, 'Foe' isn't so much a thought-out, logically sound sci-fi drama. It exists on vibes, on sense and texture, and the power of its cast.

Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal light up the screen together, and their chemistry together and physical dynamic is enough to power 'Foe' through the tedium of its own making. Mescal's performance ranges from violent and thunderous, to vulnerable and aching. Ronan, meanwhile, plays so much of her performance in the eyes, capturing all of the hope, hurt and anguish of years wasted in an ultimately doomed relationship. Together, they're the heart and soul of 'Foe' and are as compelling as can be. Aaron Pierre, meanwhile, plays off them with a kind of oily charisma and straddles a line between witness and participant in their drama, while working his own secretive ends.

'Foe' looks stunning in every shot. Mátyás Erdély's cinematography evokes the kind of pained, fleeting beauty of Terence Malick, helped along by Mescal and Ronan comfortably standing in for Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek ala 'Badlands'. Even when the movie transitions towards clunky sci-fi, there's still a kind of softness to it that helps it along. For all of this, however, and the performers, 'Foe' buckles under the weight of its own pretension. You're aware it's striving for big questions and bigger themes than are shown on screen, like the nature of humanity itself. 'Foe' juxtaposes our planet's demise by our own hand with the relationship at the core of the movie, both Ronan and Mescal's characters sabotaging their happiness, yet unable to help themselves.

'Foe' may have two striking lead performances, and a lot of ambition in its script, but as much as it strives for soulful sci-fi, there's a flatness to it somewhere along the way that becomes impossible to ignore. Not only that, it botches the ending entirely and despite all of the goodwill generated by its cast and its visuals, you find that you walk away from 'Foe' strangely unmoved.