Zoe (2018)

Director: Drake Doremus
Writer: Richard Greenberg
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Léa Seydoux, Theo James, Rashida Jones, Christina Aguilera, Miranda Otto, Matthew Gray Gubler
Part of: /slash Filmfestival
Seen on: 22.9.2018

Cole (Ewan McGregor) is a programmer. He has successfully developed a compatability test that can very reliably determine whether two people will be happy together. A test that incidentally led to the end of his own marriage to Emma (Rashida Jones). Now Cole develops AI in the form of robots that he brings ever closer to indistinguishable from humans. His latest project is Ash (Theo James) who is remarkably adept at reading human emotions. Meanwhile it’s Zoe (Léa Seydoux) who runs the day-to-day end of his matchmaking business. Zoe has been quietly in love with Cole for a while now but she doesn’t know what to do with her feelings.

Zoe is soft, tender and a little sad. It doesn’t really have anything new to add to the AI/robot genre, but that doesn’t mean that following it as it treads familiar ground isn’t pleasant.

The film poster showing Ewan McGregor and Léa Seydoux embracing in front of a blue-green background.

Zoe is one of many stories that asks what makes us human or when does a robot become human? And if something is indistinguishable from humans in its reactions and behaviors, is it already human? It is a well-explored question that has been asked many times and has also been abandoned as inconsequential and then been asked again. Zoe doesn’t really have anything new to say here.

But it does work its story very nicely. It is with its characters all the time and makes it easy for the audience to be there as well. I didn’t feel bored for a second here as the emotional work was perfectly spot-on. It’s also an aesthetically very pleasing film with beautiful people, beautiful cinematography, and a beautiful soundtrack.

Léa Seydoux and Ewan McGregor in the film.

That being said, I wish it had deviated at least a little from the usual stuff and given us something new to chew on. It had potential – especially in Ash – but it left it underexplored which is a pity. More aggravatingly, the entire film is aggressively heterosexual, generally unqueer and very, very white. One does hope that the future has more room for people who don’t all look, desire and love the same way.

Other than that, though, I really enjoyed the film even though a small part of me is crying about the waste of potential.

Theo James and Christina Aguilera in the film.

Summarizing: mostly pleasant.

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