Foe is a 2023 science fiction psychological thriller helmed by Australian director Garth Davis and co-written with Iain Reid. The screenplay, crafted by both, is an adaptation of Reid’s 2018 novel bearing the same title. It stars Sairose Ronan (Little Women, Lady Bird) and Paul Mescal (Normal People) in the lead roles.
The plot of Foe is set in the year 2065, a time when Earth is on the brink of destruction due to environmental collapse. The story revolves around a couple, Junior and Hen, living in an isolated house. Junior is proud of his family home, passed down through generations, but their marriage is silently falling apart.
The plot thickens with the introduction of a revolutionary technology called human substitutes, capable of creating AI robots with human consciousness. This technology is seen as a potential replacement for humanity. A representative from a multinational company, Outer More, visits the couple. The company is working on a climate migration strategy as Earth has become uninhabitable. They plan to test off-Earth habitation with selected individuals, and Junior is one of them.
Junior, however, is not interested in the program. The twist in the story is that the Junior living with Hen is an AI robot developed by Outer More, replacing the real Junior who was sent to space. The AI Junior is designed to take the real Junior’s place and has human-like consciousness.
Human vs. AI
Foe is not just a movie; it’s a maze of complex human emotions intertwined with the cutting-edge concept of artificial intelligence (AI). As the credits roll, viewers are left grappling with a myriad of questions and interpretations. The film’s conclusion is not just an ending but a gateway to a multitude of discussions about the future of human relationships in an increasingly AI-integrated world.
At the heart of ‘Foe’ lies the tumultuous relationship between Human Junior and his AI counterpart. The film introduces us to a world where AI is not just a tool but a mirror reflecting the deepest and darkest corners of the human psyche. Human Junior, with all his flaws, represents the raw and unfiltered side of humanity – possessive, manipulative, and often driven by jealousy. In contrast, AI Junior, while inheriting these traits, strives to embody the better aspects of Junior, focusing on restraint and Hen’s happiness.
The interactions between Human Junior and AI Junior are a dance of duality, each step revealing more about what it means to be human. As the story unfolds, the audience witnesses the transformation of Terrance from a mentor to a captor, reveling in the AI’s unraveling and the exposure of Junior’s fears and darker tendencies.
Hen’s character is pivotal, acting as the bridge between the real and the simulated. Her relationship with both versions of Junior provides a stark contrast in how AI and humans perceive and react to emotions. While Human Junior’s possessiveness and toxicity suffocate her, AI Junior offers a glimpse into what could have been – a relationship built on understanding and shared joy.
The climax of ‘Foe’ is a crescendo of emotional turmoil. Hen’s decision to leave, symbolized by an empty letter, speaks louder than words. It’s a powerful statement about the impact of possessiveness and the desire for freedom. The scene where she boards the plane, leaving behind the AI version of herself, is a poignant moment, highlighting the film’s central theme – the search for genuine human connection in a world where the lines between real and artificial are increasingly blurred.
What the Director Had to Say?
Davis explained to EW.com that the core attraction of the book for him was its central relationship, which serves as the story’s emotional core. He was captivated by the novel’s symbolic elements, particularly how the deteriorating marriage mirrors the planet’s decay. Davis expressed a deep interest in the themes of identity and reality, pondering whether long-term relationships might lead to a loss of individual identity or an overshadowing of a partner’s identity. This concern extends beyond just artificial intelligence.
Davis finds artificial intelligence intriguing because it stimulates parts of the mind that are typically inactive, prompting introspection about one’s humanity and consciousness. He notes that consciousness exists in various forms, including in trees and other entities, emphasizing our responsibility towards all sentient beings. The example of the chicken factory highlights this point, as it raises questions about our perception and treatment of sentient beings, including AI, once they attain a human-like state. Davis wonders how humanity will respond to such advancements: will we treat sentient AI as mere components in a production line, similar to how chickens are often viewed?
The Implications of AI Integration
‘Foe’ is more than a story about a troubled marriage; it’s a commentary on the future of human relationships in an age dominated by AI. The film challenges the audience to think about the ethical and emotional implications of creating beings that can think, feel, and react like us. It raises questions about the nature of consciousness and the value of human experience.
As AI continues to advance, the scenarios depicted in ‘Foe’ become more plausible. The film serves as a cautionary tale, urging viewers to consider the potential consequences of our relentless pursuit of technological progress. It’s a reminder that while AI can mimic human emotions, the depth, complexity, and unpredictability of real human relationships are what truly make us human.
The ending of ‘Foe’ is a masterful blend of storytelling and philosophical inquiry. It leaves the audience with more questions than answers, sparking debates and discussions about love, identity, and the future of human-AI interactions. As we step into an era where the lines between human and machine are increasingly blurred, ‘Foe’ stands as a testament to the enduring power of cinema to explore the most profound and complex aspects of the human condition.
Where Can You Watch Foe?
Foe is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.